If you are a cooking enthusiast then you have probably heard about Michelin stars and wondered about what they were. If that was ever you, the you are in the right place because this article contains all you need to know about them.
Photo credit: Guide Michelin
Many chefs struggle to attain a Michelin star because it is recognized as the ultimate hallmark of culinary excellence.
The stars are usually given to restaurants ranked at a particularly high standard. Eateries that make the cut can get one, two, or three stars, and the accolade is desired by chefs around the world.
The system was initially introduced in 1926, with a single star meaning “a very good restaurant”. The second and third stars were created in 1933, with two stars meaning "excellent cooking that is worth a detour", and three stars "exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey".
The Michelin Guide has been published annually since 1900. It was created originally to help drivers find mechanics, hotels, and above all, good restaurants, on their travels.
Since then, the stars have become popular globally with guides published for major cities in the world.
Michelin stars are not based on customer reviews. They are based on undercover inspections by anonymous food experts known as the Michelin Inspectors.
These Inspectors stay anonymous to avoid being given preferential treatment and are officially trained in France.
They are not permitted to communicate with the press, but it is believed most will have at least some experience in the restaurant business.
Anyone hoping to become a Michelin Inspector must be sufficiently passionate and knowledgeable about food, with good attention to detail, and the ability to blend in with normal customers.
The judging criteria, which remains the same for each restaurant, focuses on the quality of the ingredients, cooking techniques and, above all, taste.
Michelin stars are awarded solely on the standard of cuisine, so inspectors don't consider things like restaurant decor or ambience when awarding stars, although those things are rated from 1 to 5 using a crossed fork and spoon symbol.
Restaurant owners are not informed of when the inspection will take place, and an inspector can return 3 to 6 times before making his final report back to their fellow inspectors, who then come to a joint decision about whether or not to award stars.
A restaurant can be rated from 0-3 stars, and there is also a ‘Bib Gourmand’ award for places that offer great food at a reasonable price.
Restaurants get the stars not the chefs so a chef with more than one restaurant can have more than three stars.
The chef with the most Michelin stars ever collected is the late Joël Robuchon. He once held an impressive 32 Michelin stars in total.
Not all restaurants get the stars and those who make the grade are reinspected frequently with the possibility of losing their stars if the inspectors feel that standards have slipped.