As with all great inventions that have changed the course of history, the Michelin Guide didn't start out as the iconic restaurant guide to Michelin star restaurants it is today esteemed to be.
In fact, its roots were far more humble: the little red guidebook was originally conceived simply to encourage more motorists to take to the road not to list Michelin star chefs and promote their cuisine. Now the highest accolade a chef can hope to achieve is owning or cooking in 3 Michelin star restaurants.
"This Guide was born with the century, and it will last every bit as long," were the words inked in the very first edition of the Michelin Guide, published in August 1900 and containing useful information for French motorists such as maps, lists of petrol stations, mechanics and hotels.
Nearly 35,000 copies were printed despite there being less than 3,000 cars on the road in France at the time, but brothers André and Eduardo Michelin were confident their free guide would increase the demand for cars and therefore for their tyre manufacturing business.
Acknowledging the growing influence of the guide’s restaurant section, the Michelin brothers also recruited a team of mystery diners - or restaurant inspectors, as we better know them today - to visit and review restaurants anonymously.
Who are the Michelin Guide's restaurant inspectors and how do they go about doing their jobs?
Envied by many for having quite possibly the best job in the world, the Michelin Guide’s stable of inspectors are all full-time employees of the Michelin Group who dine out regularly to put forth the best consumer recommendations for hotels and restaurant experiences.
Most of the them have studied in the best hospitality schools in the world, are widely travelled and have lived and worked in various countries around the world - and are collectively responsible for rating more than 40,000 hotels and restaurants in over 24 countries across three continents.
Food trends and dining technologies may have come and gone, but for over a century, the Michelin Guide has held firm to its founding mission of fostering a culture of travel and eating out, and its promise of helping people make the right choice, based on six core values:
Albert and Michel Roux's Le Gavroche, in London. It went on to become one of the first UK restaurants to win a second star in 1977, and the first to win a third, in 1982. Today it is still open as a two star restaurant, run by Albert's son, Michel Roux, Jr. In 2010 the Roux family's second restaurant, the Waterside Inn, became the first restaurant outside France to have held three Michelin stars for 25 years. The Roux family was also influential in training and influencing other chefs who themselves have gone on to win Michelin stars; Pierre Koffmann, Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay all went on to open restaurants which earned three Michelin stars after working with the Roux brothers.
As with all great inventions that have changed the course of history, the Michelin Guide didn't start out as the iconic restaurant guide to Michelin star restaurants it is today esteemed to be. In fact, its roots were far more humble: the little red guidebook was originally conceived simply to encourage more motorists to take to the road not to list Michelin star chefs and promote their...