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How Does a Restaurant Get a Michelin Star?

By
Emma Valdiserri
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What is a Michelin Star all about? In the world of fine dining, a Michelin Star is the hallmark of culinary excellence and restaurant marketing. Michelin Stars embody the quality of food and customer service that allow restaurants to make their mark.

From the executive chef to the bar staff, Michelin Star restaurants require the best talent to live the reality of receiving one, two, or three stars. As of 2020, there are roughly 2,650 restaurants worldwide that hold at least one Michelin Star. With that said, you can only imagine how much culinary creativity, passion, and knowledge it takes to earn one.

Considering the small number of Michelin Star restaurants that exist, you may ask yourself, “How does a restaurant get a Michelin Star?” While all types of chefs dream of receiving a Michelin Star, only a handful make it to the top. Whether you’re a chef, a foodie, or simply curious about Michelin Star restaurants, let’s look at how a restaurant gets a Michelin Star.

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How Does a Restaurant Get a Michelin Star?

If you’re a common restaurant-goer, you may be a regular at leaving Yelp reviews for the restaurants you try. But when it comes to Michelin Stars, Yelp isn’t even considered. Instead, Michelin inspectors award Michelin Stars. It's a term you hear often included with restaurant lingo, but it holds great value to those who receive one (or more).

What Is a Michelin Inspector?

Michelin inspectors are anonymous customers with relevant experience in the food industry. Their job is to visit and review some of the best restaurants in the world. They get to try varying menu types and fabulous flavors.

Sounds like a dream job, right? Truthfully, it may not be as glamorous as you’d imagine. Candidates have to undergo elaborate tests that target their palette and overall judgment on cuisine. They must also commit to eating most of their lunches and dinners at restaurants.

This limits their time for cooking or spending meals with their families. In addition, inspectors don’t cover a specific region. Rather, they have to travel to visit a variety of restaurants and critique various types of cuisine.

Lastly, candidates are eligible if they have the following qualities:

  • Avid attention to detail
  • An appetite for all types of food
  • The ability to be discrete in any restaurant environment 
  • A strong inquisition

Similar to receiving a Michelin Star, being a Michelin inspector is no easy task. But if this still sounds like your dream job, learn more about how to become a Michelin inspector.

Whether it’s a seasonal appetizer list or a dream dessert menu, Michelin inspectors get to taste it all. But what criteria do they follow to review a restaurant? Keep reading to find out!

Michelin Star Restaurants: Meeting the Criteria

Once a Michelin inspector arrives at a restaurant, they must consider specific criteria. While rating their meal is a top priority, other factors come into play.

Here are the five main criteria of the inspection process:

  1. Quality of the products (fresh produce for example)
  2. Mastery of flavor and cooking techniques
  3. The personality of the chef in their cuisine
  4. Value for money
  5. Consistency between visits

Beyond these five qualities, one inspection is not all it takes. The Michelin inspectors revisit restaurants up to six times to ensure they’re performing well on a consistent basis. After their visits, inspectors discuss their observations and decide whether the restaurant merits a Michelin Star.

So, what’s the difference between a restaurant that has one, two, or three Michelin Stars? Let’s break it down.

One Michelin Star Restaurants

The current Michelin Guide defines a restaurant with one Michelin Star as “High-quality cooking, worth a stop!” One-star Michelin restaurants make up for about 1,260 of the total 2,651 Michelin Star restaurants in the world.

While one Michelin Star may not shine as bright as two or three, it’s still a major and rare accomplishment for any restaurant and its staff. Regardless of which one-star restaurant you go to, you’re sure to enjoy every bite.

Two Michelin Star Restaurants

To up the ante, the Michelin Guide classifies a two-star restaurant as “Excellent cooking, worth a detour!” This means people should go out of their way to dine at these restaurants.

As of 2020, there were about 415 two-star restaurants around the world. Some famous two-star restaurants include La Gavroche in London and Noma in Copenhagen.

Three Michelin Star Restaurants

Honoring the best of the best, the Michelin Guide describes three-star restaurants as “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey!” There are only about 137 one-star restaurants worldwide.

They’re run by incredible chefs and offer once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences. The technique, flavor, and overall ambiance make each bite a dream at three-star restaurants.

Michelin Star Restaurants in the US

A restaurant in France received the first Michelin Star in 1926. One-star ratings at the time described restaurants as “fine-dining establishments.” The three-star rating we see today came later in 1931. 

Since the 1920s, the Michelin Guide and star rating system have expanded worldwide. As of 2020, the countries with the most Michelin star restaurants are France, Japan, Italy, Germany, and the United States.

However, the star rating system didn’t debut in the US until 2005. Even then, the Michelin Guide primarily highlighted fine dining venues in New York City. 

Now, the Michelin Guide covers all types of restaurants across major cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and more. If you have big travel plans for any of these big cities, we’ve listed three Michelin Star restaurants in each one below.

Michelin Star Restaurants: NYC

When it comes to the city that never sleeps, Michelin Star restaurants and chefs follow suit. Here are three excellent Michelin Star restaurants in the Big Apple:

1. Eleven Madison Park (three stars): Located in an Art Deco building overlooking Madison Square Park, this venue offers memorable tastes and views. From popular cocktails and snacks to tasting menus of up to 10 courses, this restaurant has it all.

2. Gabriel Kreuther (two stars): This fresh take on French cuisine in the heart of Manhattan exceeds all expectations. It offers a selection of up to 14 cocktails (see: popular cocktail recipes). In addition, it delivers a prix fixe menu that draws inspiration from history and culture.

3. Carbone (one star): This Italian-American restaurant embodies comfort, elegance, and flavor all in one. Located in Greenwich Village, Carbone specializes in delicious dishes like Seafood Salad and Veal Parmesan. And their extensive wine list will have you swirling wine in no time.

Michelin Star Restaurants: Chicago

The Windy City has so much to offer in line with cuisine. Once you’ve seen the Bean and walked along the river, consider looking into the following Michelin Restaurants in Chicago:

1. Alinea (three stars): Located in Lincoln Park, this restaurant reinvents the wheel of Modernist cuisine. Their multi-course menu tastes and looks like a piece of art in the backdrop of intimacy and comfort.

2. Moody Tongue (two stars): If you’re in the mood for food, try Moody Tongue in the South Loop. Balancing flavors and aromatics, this restaurant plays around with textures, temperatures, and seasonal ingredients. Better yet, it also specializes in culinary brewing.

3. Topolobampo (one star): This restaurant raises the bar in River North. Known for its refined Mexican cuisine, Topolobampo’s wine food pairing and tasting menus will hit all of your taste buds.

Michelin Star Restaurants: Los Angeles

Hollywood's celebrities aren’t the only group that make up the City of Angels. Michelin Star restaurants in LA make their mark, too!

Here are three Michelin Star restaurants for you to try:

1. Shin Sushi (one star): Located in San Bernardino Valley, this Japanese restaurant takes fresh seafood and ingredients to a whole new level. Their take on sushi and sashimi will blow you away in just one bite.

2. Vespertine (two stars): If you’re big on gastronomy, this is the place for you! This Culver City restaurant aims to disrupt the modern meal by blending art, culture, and texture in every bite.

3. Osteria-Mozza (one star): Cheese, please! This Italian restaurant is a world of mozzarella. It also serves a variety of handmade pasta and roasted meats in the elegant ambiance of its private wine room.

Michelin Star restaurants across the world are famous for their culinary creativity. Many places may keep it simple by revamping a standardized recipe.

Others may hire a sommelier (see: how to pronounce sommelier) to offer various wine and cheese pairings. While the prices at many Michelin Star restaurants may tempt you to dine and dash, the experience alone will keep you coming back.

Restaurants that have a Michelin star can expect a high ROI for all their hard work both in and out of the kitchen. From inventory tracking (see: inventory control) to managing restaurant expenses, Michelin Star restaurants bring their A-game. This ensures the thought of their cuisine lives in your mind rent-free.

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Frequently Asked Questions About How Do Restaurants Get Michelin Stars

Which Chef Has Most Michelin Stars?

The chef that holds the most Michelin Stars at a total of 31 Joël Rubochon. However, he is no longer alive. Currently, Alain Ducasse holds the most stars at a total of 21. He is a world-famous chef and is the owner of three Michelin Star restaurants.

How Much Is a Michelin Star Worth?

Restaurants that receive one or more Michelin Stars can expect to see an increase in customers. It’s common for restaurants to increase activity by 20% to 40% after receiving one star. Due to the demand for a seat at one of their tables, restaurants with Michelin Stars are likely to increase their menu prices. In this way, Michelin Stars can offset the cost to open a bar or restaurant.

Do Restaurants Pay for Michelin Stars?

Restaurants do not pay for Michelin Stars. Instead, restaurants undergo thorough inspections by Michelin inspectors that review their food anonymously. However, countries can support the Michelin Guide financially in an effort to boost food tourism in their nation.