When diners want to know if a restaurant is the best in class, they’ll ask one simple question – is it Michelin-starred?
Since the first guide to France was published by Michelin in 1900, the familiar travel and restaurant guides have become a trusted standard around the world for the best of the best. It has humble beginnings; the French founders of Michelin Tyre Company were trying to increase the demand for cars in an effort to also increase the demand for their tyres. To do that, they began circulating free travel guides, sharing the best hotels, restaurants and attractions in an area. In 1926, the first star was awarded, and since then the familiar red guide to restaurants has been published once a year, setting the new standard in fine dining.
How the rating system works
While most people understand that the prestigious Michelin star is only awarded to the very best restaurants, few people know how the system actually works.
To be awarded a star, Michelin inspectors will visit a restaurant four times over the course of the judging period. Once it’s been awarded a star, an inspector will quietly return once every 18 months to verify the quality is still at the same high standard. A two-star restaurant will receive more than 10 visits before becoming a three-star. Inspectors undertake their work anonymously, travelling on the road three weeks each month and visiting a new restaurant every day.
Once awarded, the rating system indicates:
- One star denotes very good cooking in its category
- Two stars denote excellent cooking worth a detour
- Three stars denote exceptional cuisine worth a journey
A restaurant will be judged on quality, mastery of technique, personality and consistency of the food. Interior décor, table setting or service quality are not official ranking factors, though many critics argue it does have an impact. Many chefs will focus their careers around winning a Michelin star, and once awarded, restaurants typically enjoy an influx of curious diners who come to sample their award-winning dishes. You can learn more about the process in a special guide called Selecting our Stars, hosted on the Michelin website.
Finding a restaurant near you
Michelin inspectors review restaurants from around the world and publish them in regional guides each year. For detailed write-ups you can purchase the book in store, or download the app to your smartphone from the iTunes store and review on the go.
The Michelin website also lets you browse Michelin-starred restaurants, along with other eateries that have not earned a star but are still commended by inspectors. Finally, guides like MSN Food’s list of restaurant stars in the UK are a great place to look if you’re interested specifically in which restaurants have earned stars nearer to home. Each of the resources listed above provide links or contact information to the restaurants so you can book a reservation and try the award-winning dishes for yourself.
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