Although it seems odd that a tire company should have anything to say about fine cuisine, Michelin is one of the founders of the restaurant grading system.
The Michelin Red Guides were originally established in the early 1900s in France when automotive travel was first becoming popular. The guides provided a restaurant grading system designed to promote the automotive industry by letting diners know which local restaurants were worthy of a special trip.
According to the Michelin three-star restaurant grading system:
- One star gave a vote of approval to a restaurant in the nearby area.
- Two stars meant a restaurant deserved a detour.
- Three stars meant the restaurant was “worth a special journey.”
Michelin Star Restaurants
More than a century later, Michelin Red Guides now provide a restaurant grading system for thousands of hotels and restaurants in 23 countries. The Michelin Red Book (not to be confused with the green book that covers other aspects of tourism) offers three-star ratings to only about 86 of these restaurants. This exclusivity has fueled the reputation of the stars as a coveted honor.
Michelin Restaurant Rating System
Michelin Red Guides have a strong reputation for objectivity, since they are not advertiser-sponsored and are funded by sources outside of the hospitality industry.
Inspectors arrive at each restaurant anonymously, and then send a detailed report of their experience to the Michelin company office in Paris. The results of each report are summarized in the published guide with a few lines of text and a final determination of stars.
Because Michelin star restaurants are so well-respected and Michelin Red Guides are so influential, Michelin Red Book inspectors and editors have come under scrutiny several times over the years. Various exposés have sought to undermine the credentials of the Michelin inspectors and the Michelin restaurant grading system itself. So far, these efforts have done little to reduce the popularity of Michelin Red Guides and their effect on the aspirations of chefs and restaurant owners to rise higher in the rating.