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Aiming For Those Michelin Stars

What makes a restaurant successful other than staggering profits?  An exceptional review rating.  In a society that relies heavily on media and experts’ opinions, a restaurant’s rating creates a major impact on the success or failure of its existence.  Review ratings recognize restaurants according to their quality – their food, ambiance, price, view and service, among others.   These ratings are often given in the form of stars, numbers or other symbols, and have the ability to make or break a restaurant.

While there are many forms of reviews that has come out in the industry (like the Mobil Travel guide, the American Automobile Association or AAA, Zagat Survey, and the restaurant reviews of local newspapers), the most sought-after review rating is the Michelin star.  The Michelin stars are the Holy Grail of the restaurant business.  If in the Arthurian literature, Sir Percival and Sir Galahad have to prove themselves worthy to be in the presence of the Holy Grail, chefs and restaurateurs in the restaurant industry have to prove themselves worthy for inclusion in the Michelin Red Guide.

Once included in the Red Guide, restaurants are ranked and recognized according to stars—3 stars, 2 stars, 1 star or no star.

History. The Michelin Red Guide is considered to be the oldest and most popular European hotel and restaurant guide.  Initiated by Andre Michelin, the book started out in the year 1900 as a guide for automobile drivers.  This guide assisted them in the maintenance of their cars and helped them find a place to stay and eat while they drove all around France.  Over time, as more and more people trusted and relied on it, the guide started to acknowledge outstanding restaurants in 1926.  The first guide started out by marking qualified restaurants with only one star, and then later, in the early 1930s, they added more stars in their recognition and ranking.   The book cover started out with the color blue, and was later changed to red in 1931.

As time passed by, the Red Guide established for itself a strong credibility and integrity among its patrons, and became a powerful authority in reviewing restaurants and travel places.  By 2010, Red Guides have been published not just for France, but also for the restaurant industries in Germany, Netherlands, Belgium/Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, Portugal/ Switzerland, and Great Britain/Ireland. There are also Red Guides which encompass the restaurant industries in major cities of the world – Paris, London, Tokyo, Kyoto/Osaka, Hong Kong/Macau, New York City, San Francisco bay Area/Wine Country, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas.

Process of Inspection. Michelin believes that anonymity during inspection is essential in generating impartial evaluations of the restaurants that they review.  The anonymous, professional inspectors who are said to be experts in the field write thorough reports which are submitted to the company headquarters in Paris.  All positive evaluations are collated, classified and are given its star rankings during the annual star meetings.  Rankings can be 3 stars, 2 stars, 1 star or no stars at all.  Restaurants that are not deemed commendable enough are simply not included in the guide.

One star means a restaurant has “a very good cuisine,”   two stars mean that the restaurant has an “excellent cuisine worth a detour,” and three stars signify an “exceptional cuisine worth a special journey.”   The three star rating is quite rare, and to date, only 81 restaurants all over the world received such prestige.

Aside from stars, other ratings and awards that the Michelin Guide bestows are, (1) the Rising Stars, which indicates that a dining place has a potential to soon become eligible for star-ranking; (2) the Bib Gourmand, an award that they give for restaurants that give “good food at moderate prices;” and (3) the Fork and Spoon designation, which reflects the overall comfort and quality of the restaurant.

Although there have been controversies that hounded the Michelin Guide over the years,  influential people in the industry still respect the prominence, authority and power of the Michelin Guide. Michelin-starred chefs and restaurants are more inspired to excel as they hold their stars as their ultimate accomplishment. And those that have not received nor were included in the list continue to hone their crafts, donning their chef’s coats, hats and aprons, in their continuous aim to achieve those much-coveted Michelin Stars.