The ultimate automotive authority

Features / 02-28-19

A Michelin Star is born

How Michelin turned into the world’s food authority


By Mavelle Durian

 

A Michelin Star is one of the greatest honors a restaurant can receive, serving as a traveler’s or a food enthusiast’s basis in choosing what food or restaurant they should try when visiting other countries.

When a restaurant is awarded a Michelin Star, it means that the food served boasts of a very good quality. Two stars mean excellent cooking and worth a visit, while three stars are for an exceptional cuisine and a place worth traveling to.

The company behind this prestigious restaurant rating is none other than the same brand that manufactures and sells tires around the world, Michelin.

Michelin’s history of reviewing restaurants started in 1889 in Clermont-Ferrand in central France when brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin established their own tire company. To boost car sales and car tire purchases in a country with less than 3,000 cars, and at the same time help motorists in their trips, the Michelin brothers published a handy guide containing basic information to travelers such as fuel stations, how to change a tire, and a list of places to eat or hotels where they can spend their night.

Edouard and Andre Michelin

Eventually, Michelin introduced the guide in various European and African countries such as Algeria and Tunisia (1907); the Alps and the Rhine (1908); Germany, Spain, and Portugal (1908); and “The Countries of the Sun” (Les Pays du Soleil) (Northern Africa, Southern Italy and Corsica) (1911).

However, the publication of the guide was suspended during World War I. After the war, the guide got revised editions and continued to be given away until 1920. There was also a circumstance where Andre Michelin visited a tire merchant and noticed the copies of the guide being used to support a workbench. With the principle of “man only truly respects what he pays for,” Michelin launched a new guide and started to charge about 750 francs or $2.15 in 1922.

Edition 1900 of Michelin Guide

The new Michelin Guide didn’t only have basic information for travelers; it also included a list of hotels in Paris, a list of restaurants in categorical form, and had removed the advertisements on the guide. With the popularity of the guide’s restaurant section, the Michelin brothers began to recruit a team of anonymous diners to visit and review food in restaurants.

Using Murray’s and Baedeker’s traveler guides, the Michelin Guide began to award a single star to every qualified fine dining establishment in 1926. Then five years later, the guide introduced the hierarchy of zero, one, two, and three stars, and in 1936, the criteria for the starred rankings were published.

1929 Michelin Guide France

In 1931, the Michelin Guide’s cover was changed from blue to red, which the guide is using until now. The publication of the guide was suspended again during World War II, but in 1944, as requested by the Allied Forces, the 1939 Michelin Guide to France was exclusively reprinted for military use. The annual publication of the guide resumed on May 16, 1945, shortly after the Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

In the early post-war years, the effects of wartime shortages led Michelin to increase a limit of two stars, and in 1950, the French edition included 38 restaurants that were judged if they meet the standards of the guide. Meanwhile, the first Michelin Guide in Italy was published in 1956 and awarded no stars, while the first guide in Britain awarded 25 stars in various restaurants.

During the rest of the 20th century, the Michelin Guide became a bestseller, and now rates over 40,000 establishments in over 24 territories across three continents, and 30 million copies of the guide have been sold worldwide.

Michelin Guide that we use today

The book that was founded by the Michelin brothers became a remarkable vision for the company and is still being used today to make tourism, driving, and the search for the world’s best meals available to all.