The Michelin Star is one of the most coveted awards in the restaurant industry.
In most restaurant rating systems, getting a “one star” review is the worst possible outcome, but not if a restaurant receives one Michelin Star.
A star from the French tire company? Well, a lot worse things can happen.
Michelin stars are a funny thing in the U.S. Mostly known for celebrating traditional, European (or more popularly French) cuisine, getting a Michelin rating in the U.S. is rare. In fact, only 165 exist in the U.S. (one happens to be a Toast customer; Sepia in Chicago!).
The Michelin Guide: Where it All Began
The Michelin Guide came about when French car tire manufactures and brothers Andre and Edouard published a book of useful information regarding their tires, repairs, mechanics, as well as maps with gas stations and hotel information. They printed and distributed over 35,000 copies of their first edition, and quickly expanded to other others in Europe in addition to France. When they started charging for their guides, rathering than giving them away for free as they had in the past, they removed the advertisements section and added in restaurants. They noticed the restaurant listings were the most popular, and recruited a team of anonymous reviewers to report back on local restaurants. Thus, the modern day Michelin Guide was born.
How to Get a Michelin Star
Let's call it like it is - getting a Micheling Star isn't easy.
First of all, the location has to be in an area covered by Michelin. For example, Cleveland has a budding restaurant scene, but it just isn't on the Michelin map).
Secondly, the restaurant has to be getting major press to even be noticed by Michelin.
Then, at this point, the "stars" just have to align; a Michelin reviewer needs to:
- See that press,
- Anonymously visit your location, and
- Love what they ate.
You’re then rated on a three star system.
- One Michelin Star means your restaurant is “A very good restaurant in its category.”
- To get two Michelin Stars, you need to have “Exceptional cooking, worth a detour.”
- For the craved three stars (which as of the publication of this blog, only 14 restaurants in the United States have), you require “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”
If you do receive a Michelin star? Well, it's time to start upgrading your system, staff, point of sale, everything - because it's going to get busy.
The Business Impact
In Europe, where the Michelin rating system was born, chefs grow up dreaming of receiving Michelin star. Speaking with Eater, Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in NYC (winner of three stars), said “Michelin, whether you’re in Paris, Tokyo, New York, or Barcelona, always means the same thing. Everyone understands what it signifies, what it takes, to have those precious Michelin stars.”
However, the business impact is also quite different inside and outside of the U.S. While a Michelin star in Europe signifies a chef has distinguished his or herself from the rest of the pack, in the States, other U.S. based awards might be more impactful.
While a Michelin rating still certainly carries value and weight, in the U.S., perhaps receiving a James Beard Award might mean more. James Beard-nominated restaurants are more widely celebrated stateside, and undoubtedly receive a bump in business - even sites like Yelp develop listicles to help diners seek out these award-winning restaurants.
Michelin ratings are a blessing and a curse: academic studies even show that losing a star can cut a business' revenue in half. Chefs also note having a love/hate relationship with their Michelin stars. While it’s still one of highest awards given in the restaurant industry, some chefs report feeling as if they were being watched and constantly “looking over their shoulder” so they don’t lose a star. And while rare, some others have “returned” their stars. Chef Frederick Dhooge of ‘tHuis van Lede in Belgium turned in his star because he wanted to cook fried chicken and not be judged for it.
Reach For the Stars!
Have you ever eaten at a Michelin Star restaurant? What would you do to get a star? Let us know in the comments below!