The Road to Michelin: What it Takes for Restaurants to be Among the Best

With 27 Michelin Guides representing 23 countries on three continents, it’s another year for restaurants to step up their game in the areas of customer service, hospitality and unforgettable menu selections with impeccable presentations in hopes of securing the ultimate industry accolade, a Michelin star.

For years we have wondered about the connection between the tire company and a guide that essentially rules the restaurant industry and in many cases, fuels a chef’s quest to be recognized among the best of the best. We finally got our answer along with the background for the guide that has been referred to as a gourmand’s bible.

First published in 1900 in France, the Michelin Guide is the brainchild of brothers André and Edouard Michelin. To increase the demand for tires and other Michelin products through automobile travel, they printed 35,000 guides to be distributed at no charge to provide motorists with tips and practical information such as hotels, gas stations and where to find mechanics while on the road.  The first Michelin Star was introduced in 1926 with the two and three-star ratings following in 1931 and 1936. The criteria that are still followed today is “one star: ‘a very good restaurant in its own category’; two stars: ‘excellent cooking, worth a detour’; and three stars: ‘exceptional cuisine, worth a special trip.”

More of a mystery is the inspectors who inconspicuously dine in and out of restaurants that later make the list … or not. Lauren Davis, who handles Michelin’s public relations in the U.S., says, “Our inspectors live in the cities where they evaluate restaurants. They keep their ears to the ground and closely follow restaurant openings, closings, movings, etc.” The anonymous inspectors are trained to apply the same time-tested methods used for many decades. In addition, they pay all of their bills in full and only the quality of the cuisine is evaluated based on criteria that include product quality; preparation and flavors; the chef’s personality as revealed through his or her cuisine; value for money; and consistency over time and across the entire menu. If you’re wondering what it takes to become a Michelin inspector, keep reading.

Michelin’s announcement season begins around October every year and with the restaurants for 2018 already selected and guides currently at retail outlets, it is time to start thinking ahead to 2019, because as Davis notes, inspectors are “always dining, reviewing, making notes and scouting out the next edition.” With that being said, if you own a restaurant and looking to get on an inspector’s radar, having customers sing your praises is a great start. Also, visibility on social media can get their attention, as well as recent media features. If you’re working to secure a star in your future, you’ll want to keep all of this top of mind.

Also, keep in mind that many starred restaurants are first recipients of a Bib Gourmand, which was first introduced in 1997. Awarded to restaurants that provide “superior value for money,” Davis says at these restaurants, “you can get two courses with a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less.” It may not be Michelin’s top honor, but don’t forget, your restaurant got the inspector’s attention and is now on their radar so use this as a stepping stone to take their experience all the way to a star.

Now let’s get back to how to become an inspector because we’re sure inquiring minds want to know. Davis says new inspectors are hired all the time through Michelin’s career site but this is not your average job, even for a self-proclaimed gourmet connoisseur. Inspectors have an extensive culinary background, often as a chef and it said that they eat a minimum of 275 restaurant meals a year, which means they travel a lot. Still interested? Then be sure to read this article by Delish that really breaks it down and keep your eyes open for upcoming openings. Last year, the company was hiring inspectors in NYC so who knows which city is next.

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Sheree has been penning stories since the fifth grade. Her stories took a delicious and adventurous turn as an adult when she became a foodie.