- Georgina Salter
- Being awarded three Michelin stars is the highest accolade a restaurant can receive.
- The Michelin Guide is famously secretive about how it decides which restaurants deserve stars and how many.
- Essentially, it comes down to whether the food is good enough to warrant going out of your way to pay the restaurant a visit.
For a restaurateur, there is no greater accolade than being awarded a prestigious Michelin star.
Well, except for being awarded two or, the top award, three.
The Michelin Guide is, in the eyes of many, a fine-dining bible. However, when it was launched by tire company Michelin in 1900, it was intended as a way of helping French motorists find decent places to stay and eat while on the road.
As of 2018, there are over 2,971 Michelin-starred restaurants across the globe.
Read More: The 50 best restaurants in the world in 2018
But what exactly does it take to gain a much-coveted star? And what’s the difference between restaurants which have one, two, or three?
All inspectors from Michelin are catering and hospitality experts who visit restaurants anonymously and pay for their meals, meaning owners, chefs, and waiting staff never know when they’re being judged.
Exactly what inspectors are looking for when assessing a restaurant is kept largely secret, but Michelin says they look at five criteria:
- Quality of the products
- Mastery of flavor and cooking techniques
- The personality of the chef in their cuisine
- Value for money
- Consistency between visits.
A restaurant’s interior decor, table settings, or service are never factored into the equation when it comes to awarding stars, Michelin explains.
Aspects such as these are scored with a less well-known knife and fork symbol – this goes from one set of cutlery (“quite comfortable”) up to five (“luxury in the traditional style”).
Of course, the most revered and coveted accolade is the Michelin star, the awarding of which has the potential to boost a restaurant’s fortunes more than anything else.
The star system was launched in 1933 with the aim of highlighting the most exceptional restaurants around the world.
Here’s what the stars mean:
- One star: high quality cooking, worth a stop
- Two stars: excellent cooking, worth a detour
- Three stars: exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.
As much as a star is a huge achievement for a chef, Michelin insists the awards are for the benefit of consumers rather than cooks.
In 1997, Michelin introduced a “Bib Gourmand” award, which it describes as “not quite a star” but a nod of approval for “friendly establishments that serve good food at moderate prices.”
However, this doesn’t mean a restaurant has to be expensive to win a Michelin star, in Singapore you can famously enjoy the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal of chicken and rice from street food stall Hawker Chan (which has now expanded into a casual restaurant) for just $3 Singapore dollars ($2.20).