Michelin Guide: A Brief History of World's Famous Foodie Guide

Michelin Guide: A Brief History of World’s Famous Foodie Guide

Foodies must have heard of or at least know of the “guidebook” that collects numerous delicious restaurants from around the world under the name of the Michelin Guide. Many people may confuse the name with the world-renowned tire manufacturer from France, Michelin, which is easily recognized by its iconic white, round, chubby mascot. Today, let us share a brief history of this award with you. Foodies cannot afford to miss it!

Michelin Guide: A Brief History of World's Famous Foodie Guide
The Michelin Brothers: André (left) and Édouard (right)”

In the year 1900, two brothers named Andre and Edouard founded a car tire manufacturing company called Michelin Tyre, named after their surname. However, at that time, the roads in France that supported car traffic were still in the process of expansion. There were only about 2,200 cars in France at that time.

After producing car tires for only about 11 years, the two brothers came up with a simple but sharp marketing idea, which was “if we want to increase car tire sales, we need to get people to drive longer distances so that tires are to be used more.” This marketing concept was another leap for the two brothers who wanted to change the concept of having a car (which required tires!) from being a means of transportation for nearby park picnics and village walks to long-distance travel.

As a result, the Michelin Guide was born, which surveyed and searched for restaurants near and far throughout France that were rich in quality, delicious taste, and ready to provide many dimensions of good experiences for excited diners who drove to sample their food. In subsequent years, the Michelin Guide expanded its ‘guide’ empire to other countries in a continuous manner and became a symbol of the success of restaurants and one of the most influential food awards in the world.

Michelin Guide: A Brief History of World's Famous Foodie Guide
The world-renowned chefs whose restaurants have been awarded Michelin Stars are gathered from all corners of the world.

In the early days of Michelin Guide distribution, the famous Red Guidebook only collected a list of hotels and gas stations located near good restaurants. However, as the number of restaurant names increased, the rating system for restaurants, known as Michelin Stars, was introduced in 1931. This star system is awarded to the restaurant, not to the chef.

⭐️ (1 star) is a high-quality restaurant that is worth a “stopover.”
⭐️⭐️ (2 stars) is an excellent restaurant worth “driving out of your way.”
⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3 stars) is the ultimate restaurant that is worth “traveling far for.”

Over the past hundred years, many leading chefs from around the world have received this coveted recognition through their extensive experience in the culinary world, as well as their acceptance among food critics worldwide and the Michelin Guide’s consistent rating standards.

The rating criteria do not come from chefs or culinary experts in any way, but from “anonymous reviewers,” ordinary people who have undergone years of training and are not allowed to reveal this secret to anyone, including family members. They also prohibit interviews with the media and talking to restaurant owners. These “anonymous reviewers” are instructed by Michelin to remain incognito as customers and pay for their own meals to evaluate restaurants objectively.

Merry’s Notes:

  1. As of 2022, the chef with the most Michelin Stars for their restaurants in the world is Alain Ducasse, a French chef whose restaurants have collectively earned a total of 17 stars from more than 36 of his restaurants worldwide.
  2. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, known for his tough demeanor as a chef and as a judge on many cooking competition shows, once revealed in an interview with The Daily Mail in 2013 that he had shed tears upon learning that his restaurant, Gordon Ramsay at The London, failed to receive a star in 2014 after continuously receiving two Michelin Stars from 2008 to 2013.
Michelin Guide: A Brief History of World's Famous Foodie Guide
Famous Thai chefs whose restaurants have received Michelin Stars

In 2017, the Michelin Guide visited the country known for its delicious food for the first time and awarded stars to the top restaurants, not forgetting to bring stars along with them. Thailand is the sixth country in Asia that Michelin has visited, after Hong Kong and Seoul.

In 2021, Michelin introduced a new category of stars called The Michelin Green Star, awarded to restaurants that excel in sustainable sourcing of ingredients and have environmentally friendly practices. In 2022, only one restaurant in Thailand, PRU in Phuket, received this prestigious green star.

Michelin Guide: A Brief History of World's Famous Foodie Guide
Michelin Bib Gourmand-clad Tonchin Ramen, 1st Floor The Mercury Ville @ Chidlom

It is certain that restaurants that have been awarded Michelin star status are accompanied by a relatively hefty price to ensure the quality of the ingredients and the premium dining experience, which we may be familiar with as ‘Fine Dining’. However, not every so-called Fine Dining restaurant equals a Michelin Star award, and not every restaurant that meets the Michelin Star criteria must be a ‘Fine Dining’ kinda restaurant.

In 1955, the Michelin Bib Gourmand award was established to collect and recommend outstanding restaurants in terms of taste and quality, but at a reasonable price according to local standards. In 1997, the chubby Michelin Man symbol with a tongue sticking out was revealed to the public as a symbol that guarantees the deliciousness worth the price.

Mercury’s Note: Tonchin Ramen, a ramen restaurant originating from the Ikebukuro district in Japan with numerous branches around the world, has received the Michelin Bib Gourmand award from New York for three consecutive years (2019, 2020, 2022), ensuring the Michelin standard quality experience at an affordable price. Visit Tonchin Ramen on the 1st floor, The Mercury Ville @ Chidlom.