Stars In Their Eyes: Becoming A Michelin-Rated Chef
Many online culinary arts program students dream of being included in the illustrious Michelin Guide. The Guide offers an extensive rating of the quality of food offered in restaurants around the world and is widely regarded as the authority on the subject. However, for all its renown, very little is actually known about how restaurants and their respective executive chefs end up in the guide. The secrecy of its operations combined with the glamor of becoming a three-star chef has created an indelible mythology around the Michelin Guide that has allowed it to enter into the global consciousness as the industry standard of taste.
Travel guide roots
The first edition of the Michelin Guide was published in 1900 and began as a mere travel guide for the introduction of the automobile to France. That first guide was little more than a listing of French towns with suggestions of where to stay in each, along with practical driver information such as how to fix a flat tire. It wasn’t until 1933 that the guide introduced the star ranking system. The three-star system preserves its travel guide roots in its descriptions of what each star represents. A one star ranking indicates the restaurant is “a good place to stop on your journey.” Moving up, a two-star restaurant is “worth a detour” while a three-star restaurant is “worth a special journey.” That is, a three-star restaurant has achieved a level of quality so distinguished that it is worth a visit to that country just to eat at the restaurant. Such an honor is currently bestowed to only 107 restaurants in the world.
Earning your stars
To achieve this high culinary honor, a chef must have a masterful handling of the best ingredients. This combination of technique and flavor is the ultimate test of skill for an aspiring chef. The Michelin Guide measures these factors by extensively training food tasters, often called inspectors, who visit restaurants incognito and write extensive reports after eating a full meal on the Michelin company’s dime. The identities of Michelin food inspectors is such a heavily guarded secret that it is often the case that even their parents are out of the loop. This secrecy prevents any preferential treatment that Michelin inspectors are liable to receive should they be found out. As the inspector’s experience is meant to be reflective of the average diner’s experience, absolute secrecy is required. Perhaps the best advice comes from three-star chef Joel Robuchon in an interview with Cuisineist: “the first key is to cook for your guests like you would for family and show that you care for them.”