The michelin guide


It all started when...

In 1900, the Michelin Guide invented the category of food tourism reviews. Pressed to sell more tires by giving people a reason to travel, Michelin created guidebooks for travelers unfamiliar with neighboring regions of France and gave them a reason to hop in the car. Even a mention in the guide is considered an achievement, and the Guide calls out exceptional restaurants using a star system:

  • Bib Gourmand: "Good cooking at moderate prices"
  • ✪ One Star: "Very good cooking in its category" 
  • ✪✪ Two Stars: "Excellent cooking, worth a detour"
  • ✪✪✪ Three Stars: "Exceptional cuisine; worthy of a special journey." 

You can see how nicely the language lines up with the selling of consumables like tires. In the early years, the guide was especially useful for detailing which pharmacies sold gasoline (before gas stations, that's who had gas), the precise hours of the few car repair shops that existed, and excellent maps. They were so highly prized for their accuracy that allied soldiers carried them on D-Day.


The Guide began its international expansions after only a few years, and made a few other significant changes along the way;

  • 1908: Belgium
  • 1911: United Kingdom
  • 1920: Guide begins charging for books; first price is 7 Francs
  • 1936: Three star rating system finalized
  • 1951: Three star system reintroduced
  • 1997: "Bib Gourmand," a rating for excellent and economical restaurants, is introduced

And now, because I love data, here are some quick analyses of the guide by year.


Why the Michelin guide?

Many other reputable resources for evaluating fine dining exist; Gault & Milau, Pellegrino's top 50, and even Netflix's Chef's Table are seen as rising influencers in this global market. As the oldest and most reputable guidebook, Michelin still rules them all. 


What counts as a "Three-Michelin-Starred restaurant?" 

This one's a little tougher. Let's start with what doesn't count:

  • Some Michelin books have folded, like the Las Vegas edition which was shuttered in 2009. Las Vegas had one three-star restaurant, Joël Robuchon, which still lists the achievement on its website. For the purposes of my main 3-Star list, out-of-print cities don't count.
Not quite, I'm afraid. Source: Joel Robuchon Las Vegas website

Not quite, I'm afraid. Source: Joel Robuchon Las Vegas website

  • City Guides
  • Regional Guides