The Michelin Guide is a series of annual guide/reference books published by the French company Michelin for more than one hundred years. The term normally refers to the Michelin Red Guide, the oldest and best-known European hotel and restaurant reference guide, which awards Michelin stars for excellence to a select few establishments.
In 1926, the guide began to award stars for fine dining establishments. Initially, there was only a single star awarded. Then, in 1931, the hierarchy of one, two, and three stars was introduced. Finally, In 1936, the criteria for the starred rankings were published:
- One star: “A very good restaurant in its category”
- Two stars: “Excellent cooking, worth a detour”
- Three stars: “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”
Michelin reviewers (commonly called “inspectors”) are completely anonymous; they do not identify themselves, and their meals and expenses are paid for by the company founded by the Michelin brothers, never by a restaurant being reviewed.
The French chef Paul Bocuse, one of the pioneers of nouvelle cuisine in the 1960s, said, “Michelin is the only guide that counts. In France, each year, at the time the guide is published, it sparks a media frenzy which has been compared to that for annual Academy Awards for films. Media and others debate likely winners, speculation is rife, and TV and newspapers discuss which restaurant might lose, and who might gain, a Michelin star.
The Michelin Guide also awards Rising Stars, an indication that a restaurant has the potential to qualify for a star, or an additional star.