Behind the scenes of the MICHELIN guide
Since its creation in 1900, the MICHELIN guide has been setting the tone for fine dining in France and, now, throughout the world. Our inspectors hunt for the best addresses in a growing number of towns and countries: 27 destinations today have “their” guide.
After visiting Europe beginning with Italy 60 years ago, the MICHELIN guide has since explored culinary horizons further afield. Our inspectors crossed the Atlantic in 2004 (New York City MICHELIN guide) before heading off to discover Tokyo in 2006 (2008 vintage). And the movement is picking up speed. After its first destination in Latin America in 2015 (Rio de Janeiro & São Paulo), no less than 4 new cities were awarded with MICHELIN stars and Bibs Gourmand in 2016:
- Washington DC
The destinations and cuisines may be increasingly diverse but one thing never changes: the rigor in the Michelin method. All around the world, our inspectors continue to anonymously test restaurants according to the criteria in place since the guide’s very beginnings.
How to score: the food, only the food, nothing but the food
In Paris, Seoul and Rio, our inspectors use the same criteria to judge restaurants and they only concern what is on the plate. There are five in total:
- The quality of the products used
- The mastery of the cooking processes or the flavors when the products are served raw
- The personality of the cooking, meaning the chef’s flair
- The consistency of quality in the dishes
- Value for money
The stars, Bibs Gourmand and the recent “Assiettes” which since last year indicates a good meal are only allocated according to these criteria.
Contrary to certain preconceived ideas, no other element is taken into account when allocating MICHELIN stars. Not even the restaurant’s class, which has a specific score from one to five “covers”. The specific quality of the service has no part to play either, even if it can be highlighted in the inspector’s comments.
Discovering new cities
Every year, our guides are updated for the new edition. The work of the inspectors is to observe the development of restaurants mentioned in the previous edition and discover new addresses to enrich the guide. And when a new destination is involved, there is a great deal of work to do! A city or country must be traveled from top to bottom to establish the foundations for presenting an overall vision of local food.
3 questions for…
Director of International Development, MICHELIN guide
How do you launch a MICHELIN guide for a new destination?
The MICHELIN guide always offers the same thing: a discovery of the cuisine from a town, region or country. For a guide to exist, the existing offer must be sufficiently broad. From the moment we are certain of a place’s culinary potential, we send our inspector teams there. Their work is to understand the culinary offer as a whole and reveal its potential, celebrating what makes it specific. This generally takes one or two years. We are then able to establish an initial ranking and therefore launch an edition of the guide. So each new guide is a long-term undertaking, and an extremely stimulating one.
Who are the inspectors chosen for a new guide? How do they work?
Today, we have inspectors who come from different countries with different profiles - there are 15 nationalities in our teams - who work together on our publications. For a new guide, we get together an international team which will make sure that expectations and judgments are consistent with our other guides and also provide diverse points of view. Once on site, they do reconnaissance work to find potential restaurants to visit, using all available information. At the same time, we recruit local people who will help us. They are trained to become inspectors who will take care of the future editions of the guide and who will be, perhaps one day, called upon to launch a guide in another country. Then the field work begins: visiting the selected hotels and restaurants, covering the entire town to extend the list, listening to and observing the locals to discover the essence of local cuisine. That’s how, for example, we came to add gastro pubs to our Great Britain and Ireland guide, and how we tirelessly walked the streets of Singapore to offer the best of its street food.
Which destinations will be explored in future MICHELIN guides?
There has been a genuine increase in the level of food all around the world which is very exciting. For a country or a town, the MICHELIN guide represents recognition which puts them on the world food map. It has become a real asset for tourism. This explains why we are increasingly asked to write guides. We are always investigating new possibilities and already offer smaller selections for many cities, through our website restaurant.michelin.com. We have just produced 5 guides in two years and we are currently checking the potential of many other destinations. This should naturally result in new publications in the near future.
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No quotas for MICHELIN stars
When a guide is launched, the number of restaurants who will receive one or several stars or any other distinction is never decided in advance. As proof, the number of stars varies greatly from one destination to another and in certain selections we still don’t have any 3-star restaurants. To date, there are 112 three-star restaurants in the world.
Our guides show good restaurants exactly where they are. One or several MICHELIN stars represents the same requirements from our inspectors, wherever they may be.
Fine food emojis
From the guide’s beginnings, we believed that to provide essential information about restaurants at a glance, nothing worked better than a collection of symbols. This practical language dedicated to restaurants and hotels is so efficient that until 2000, the symbols really spoke for themselves, no comments added!
Our collection of symbols is always growing to adapt to changes in uses and the specific characteristics of new destinations. For our Asian destinations, you can now see at a glance which restaurants and hotels require you to take off your shoes, where you can only eat with chopsticks and where you have a large selection of sakés to choose from, for example. And wherever you are in the world, you'll know whether you have free WiFi!