As foodie tours and tastings are part of my daily life and thoughts, it happened to find very often mentioned a reference to the Michelin stars. Either as an accomplishment or as a wish, the inclusion on the Michelin stars of fame is a big achievement of any restaurant. Curious to know how it does work, I did some little documentation in the last days.
A historical introduction
The tyre companies Michelin started to produce the annual guides at the beginning of 1900. At the beginning, they were dedicated to the French motorists encouraging them to travel more and with style. The number of car owners at the time was of around 5,000 but it was issued in around 35,000 copies. In 1904, the guides were expanded their interests to Belgium. The 'Red Guide' is the oldest European reference for hotels and restaurants and also one of the most wanted list to be for any respectable food creative places. During the World War I, the publication was suspended.
The system of stars was introduced in 1926. At the beginning, it was only a single star used to evaluate the restaurants, but since 1931, the 1, 2 and 2 stars were introduced. The criteria behind the classification were released in 1936: one star is for 'A very good restaurant in its category'; the 2 stars for 'Excellent cuisine, worth a detour'; the 3 stars for 'Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey'. In the same year, the traditional red cover was abandoned for blue.
As in the case of the first world conflagration, during the WWII hostilities, the guide publication was suspended. With one exception: in 1934, the guide for France was reprinted at the request of the Allies for military use.
After the war, the evaluations were limited for a long time only to two stars.
The guide expanded to other spaces as well, with the issue of the guide for Italy in 1956 and for Great Britain in 1974. The first American Michelin guide was launched in 2005, featuring New York City. San Francisco and Chicago were added later, while Los Angeles and Las Vegas were discontinuously covered. The collection of extra-European spaces was completed with Tokyo (2007), Hong Kong and Macao (2008). A special issue covers 'Main cities of Europe'.
The secret reviewers
The reviewers are completely anonymous. Their meals are paid only by the company and it is supposed that no one - even the closest relatives - are aware of the secret line of work. The evaluation takes into consideration the quality and creative recipe as well as the individual taste of the meal. The stars reflect exclusively what one can have on the plate.
Aspects such as the quality of the customer service or the interior design are not that important at that stage, but can be introduced on the description introduced in the guide of the location. Such a presentation includes qualification of the wine specialities, ambiance. For a hotel, there are 1 to 5 pavilions, and value of a restaurants is counted by 1 to 5 forks and spoons. In this category one may include the quality of the table top, the ambiance, the decor etc.
The mission of the inspector is to melt with the ambiance while going unnoticed. The perfect person qualified for such a job should be passionate and knowledgeable of the food, with a fine eye for detail and a good gourmet memory. Very often, he or she has a professional background and education in the domain of food or hospitality.
Are you looking for a guidance for your next year foodie adventures? Here is the UK Michelin evaluation for 2014.