In 1965, Henri Gault and Christian Millau developed the Gault Millau restaurant grading system and began to publish the Gault Millau restaurant guide, now one of the most influential restaurant guides in France.
The Gault Millau restaurant guides are based on a restaurant grading system that utilizes a 20-point scale. Typically, restaurants must earn at least 10 points to receive a mention in the guide.
Prior to 2004, no restaurant had ever been awarded a full 20 points, since the founders of the restaurant grading system wanted 20 to represent absolute perfection. In order to keep the integrity of the restaurant grading system intact, the publishers intended to maintain the highest score as an ideal and unattainable standard.
In 2004, however, two French restaurants (headed by the same chef) were awarded a 20-point rating for the first time. The ratings coincided with a shift from a permanent editorial staff to a new system using local food inspectors. As a result, the restaurant grading system came under fire and faced accusations of rating inflation. Despite this incident, Gault Millau remains one of the most respectable culinary ratings in the world.
The Gault Millau Restaurant Grading System
The Gault Millau restaurant guides derive some of their purist reputation from the fact that the restaurant grading system accounts only for the quality of the food. Atmosphere and service have no impact on a restaurant’s final rating. In theory, this places all the emphasis on the culinary skills of the chef and, therefore, offers focused guidance to diners who are interested in food quality alone.
This also means that Gault Millau is unlikely to surpass the other guides (such as the Michelin guide) in terms of influence and popularity. The Michelin restaurant grading system reflects the fact that most diners see a restaurant visit as a multi-faceted experience. The Gault Millau restaurant guide is more useful for fine food aficionados and culinary experts.