12 Michelin Guide facts you might not know

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th September 2019

1 - Bibendum is white because when Michelin was founded in 1900, tyres weren’t black.

Michelin 1900

Despite it having been founded in 1900, the Guide's Michelin’s star-rating system for restaurants didn’t start until 1926; the first 26 editions of the guide showed petrol stations, hotels and restaurants, but it only started sending in inspectors later. An original guide from 1900 was sold for 20,000 euros.

3-star accreditation began in 1931, each star meaning the following (which remains the same to this day): one star means the food is good, two means it is worth a detour, and three stars means it is exceptional.

2 - A number of chefs have relinquished their Michelin stars over the years

Robuchon

This includes Joel Robuchon, in 1996, who returned his three stars for his eponymous restaurant in Paris, claiming he was worried about his health, trying to keep up with the guide’s standards. Sebastien Bras cited similar reasons when he asked for his Aveyron restaurant to be removed from the 2018 guide, and this year, Marc Veyrat tried to return his two stars after his third star was taken away – but the guide’s international director Gwendal Poullennec told him that they weren’t his to give back, as stars are given to the restaurant, not the chef.

3 - London restaurant Bibendum is located in the Michelin House, the company’s first UK headquarters and tyre depot.

Bibendum London

Originally converted into a restaurant in 1986 by Sir Terence Conran and Lord Paul Hamlyn after the company relocated its headquarters, it had Simon Hopkinson in the kitchen – and forged the careers of many a prominent chef, including Phil Howard, Henry Harris and Bruce Poole. Claude Bosi took over the kitchen in 2016.

4 - The Michelin Guide was put on hold during WWII

WWII troops

But in 1945, the British Army requested a reprint of the 1939 edition, as it was deemed the best map and guide to France.

5 - Notoriously tough-skinned Gordon Ramsay cried when his New York restaurant lost its second star in 2013.

Gordon

The chef once held a total of 16 Michelin stars for his restaurants, making him one of the chefs with the most stars in history after Joel Robuchon, who had 31 Michelin stars when he passed away, and Alain Ducasse, who has 21.

6 - L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, Paul Bocuse’s restaurant in Lyon, France, is the longest standing three Michelin star restaurant in the world.

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It first earned three stars in 1965, and kept its three stars after the infamous chef passed away last year.

7 - A restaurant was once accidentally awarded a Michelin star

BoucheaOreille

In 2017, a working-class bistro, le Bouche à Oreille received a star destined for a restaurant of the same name, on a street carrying the same name a two-hour drive away. Owner Véronique Jacquet realised straight away that something was amiss, while Michelin-starred chef Aymeric Dreux was bewildered when friends and family called asking if he’d opened a second restaurant. The Guide rectified the mistake as soon as it realised and apologised profusely for the mistake.

8 - Carme Ruscalleda and Anne-Sophie Pic hold the record of most Michelin stars earned and held by female chefs

Carme Ruscalleda

There is a marked lack of women among high-ranking chefs – but Carme Ruscalleda had 7 Michelin stars across three restaurants before she closed her Barcelona restaurant, San Pau, last year, and Anne-Sophie Pic now holds the title of most Michelin-starred female chef, with 7 stars across her five restaurants. Clare Smyth was the first female chef to hold and maintain three Michelin stars in the UK until she left to found Core in 2017.

9 - Michelin inspectors are recruited according to a strict process...

Michelin inspector

The Guide’s secrecy is often questioned by its critics, as is its lack of a public rulebook – but its members staunchly defend it, as it says it is what allows its independence. The identity of its inspectors is a secret, but how they are recruited was revealed to Valeurs Actuelles in 2015: applicants must be members of the hospitality industry of at least 30 years of age, and, once they are taken on, must pledge a vow of secrecy, telling only their spouses of their occupation and then spend six months training with an inspector. 

10 - Michelin inspectors eat 275 restaurant meals a year and travel three weeks of every month 

eating out

11 - Michelin is far from a worldwide institution

Michelin around the world

The Guide only went to America (New York) in 2004 and to Japan (Tokyo) in 2006 – it has since published guides for Brazil (Rio, São Paulo) in 2015, China (Shanghai) Singapore and South Korea (Seoul) in 2016. Despite a number of internationally-acclaimed restaurants, there are still no guides for Australia or South Africa. Though Michelin has explained that this is due to logistical difficulties, it is worth remembering that Michelin is a profit-making company: if it isn’t financially viable for it to be somewhere, why should it be?

12 - These are the inspectors’ five criteria when they review a restaurant

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Quality of the produce used, mastery of cooking said ingredients (or flavour, if the dish is raw), the food’s “personality,” or skill demonstrated by the chef, consistent quality and finally value for money.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th September 2019

12 Michelin Guide facts you might not know