How To Win a Michelin Star: A Complete Guide

Trends 20 minute read 1st February 2021

Are you wondering how to win a Michelin star? We don’t blame you. The culinary world regards the Michelin star as the crown jewel of cuisine. Winners of this honor range from established venues to newcomers and cover an eclectic range of cuisines.

But how do you get one?

And, more importantly, is it worth shooting for this hallmark of dining? Keep reading for our complete guide to owning Michelin star restaurants. We’re covering what this award is and how to earn and keep it.

A Brief History of the Michelin Star

A Brief History of the Michelin Star

We can’t talk about the history of the Michelin guide and star system without mentioning tires. Yes, for all those wondering if the Michelin tire company bears any relation to this elite club, it does.

The Michelin brothers André and Édouard founded their tire company in 1889 in Clermont-Ferrand, France. They saw the booming success of the auto industry and wanted a slice of the pie. However, they knew they’d have to set themselves apart from the competition.

So they created the Michelin Guide.

The (initially free) pamphlet told drivers and travelers important information about changing tires. But most importantly, it gave travel information like maps, gas stations, and hotel recommendations.

Soon the Michelin Guide became a smashing success across Europe. The brothers relaunched it in 1920 to include fine dining in its recommendations.

In 1926, the Michelin brothers launched the Michelin star award system to honor exceptional cuisine. Since then, restauranteurs and critics worldwide have lusted over Michelin stars and the mystique surrounding the assessment criteria.

What’s the Most Famous Michelin Star Restaurant

What’s the Most Famous Michelin Star Restaurant?

Honestly, there isn’t just one most-famous restaurant awarded Michelin stars. This is because the list of awarded restaurants is constantly changing. New establishments get a Michelin star every year, and some lose one.

There are now over 2,600 across the world with at least one Michelin star. While that may sound like a lot, it’s minimal, considering the sheer number of fine-dining restaurants worldwide.

Currently, six of the top Michelin-starred restaurants are:

  • Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, CA
  • Le Bernardin in New York, NY
  • Mirazur in Menton, France
  • Den in Tokyo, Japan
  • Central in Lima, Peru
  • Attica in Melbourne, Australia

Should I Visit Michelin Star Restaurants for Inspiration

Should I Visit Michelin Star Restaurants for Inspiration?

Yes. If you want to get a Michelin star, check out restaurants from the Michelin guide for inspiration. Whether you’re a chef or restauranteur, if you want to serve a Michelin plate, see how others do it.

See what it’s like to be “the best in the biz.” At the very least, you’ll experience excellent cooking and a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. At best, you won’t have to wonder, “how do you win a Michelin star?” anymore.

How Hard Is It To Earn a Michelin Star and Why

How Hard Is It To Earn a Michelin Star and Why?

Have you ever thought, “How hard is it to earn a Michelin star?” The answer: it’s incredibly challenging.

It’s true that, technically, any restaurant can get a Michelin star. No matter where it is (within reason), what cuisine it provides or the type of customers you serve. As long as you have outstanding service and exceptional provisionals. So why does this award go to only the top establishments?

Here’s why getting a spot in the Michelin Guide is so hard.

Michelin Only Operates in Certain Regions

Did you know that until 2005, Michelin Guide didn’t review restaurants in the US at all? For a long time, the organization only existed on three continents. Today, however, Michelin Guides exist in all six inhabited continents.

That said, they still only visit restaurants in certain regions. For example, in the US, you can hope for a star rating in New York but not Denver. To earn a Michelin star, you have to be in the right place at the right time. Even if you have exceptional cuisine and excellent cooking techniques.

Michelin inspectors are extremely strict

Michelin Inspectors Are Extremely Strict

The Michelin inspector is the most mysterious part of the star system.

Mystery shrouds these food critics. They review restaurants anonymously, secretly determining the fate of many chefs and restaurants. It’s unclear to the public who these international Michelin inspectors are or how they found this career.

One thing is clear: their perception of your dish quality, cooking techniques, and food and dining experience can change lives.

Inspectors Visit Unannounced

These restaurant inspectors want to know your establishment has impeccable culinary techniques, service and incredibly good food quality at all times. To do that, they do surprise inspections.

The Criteria Are Cloudy

International Michelin Inspectors adhere to the following Criteria from the Micheline Guide:

  1. Quality of products
  2. Mastery of flavor and cooking techniques
  3. The personality of the chef in the cuisine
  4. Value for money
  5. Consistency of food

You might be saying, “How to win a Michelin star seems obvious. You just follow the rubric.”

Well, look at any one of those points. You can interpret them in a hundred different ways.

How do you know a chef’s personality was visible in your meal? What determines product quality? Does it just mean fresh produce? Can you use too many luxury ingredients? Who’s idea of value for money are we following?

You get the picture. None of these are simple questions you can just slot into your business plan.

The Time Commitment of How To Win a Michelin Star

That last point is one of the most important. If you’re serious about getting yourself one of these elusive stars, you’ll need to put in the effort. It might take over your life for a period and lead to frustration, dead ends and questioning why you’re bothering.

However, if you like a challenge, and getting a Michelin star is part of your business plan, keep reading.

How to Get a Michelin Star

How To Win a Michelin Star (Or Two or Three)

How do you win a Michelin star? Well, there are a maximum of three stars on offer from Michelin. As you might expect, they all come with their own strict requirements.

Just remember that the following guidance comes from educated guesswork and input from those who have achieved Michelin star status.

Here are some general rules and guidance about what you must accomplish for each star.

How To Get a Michelin Star

One star doesn’t have the same connotation in the Michelin world as it does elsewhere. A one-star restaurant is a “very good restaurant.” It’s worth the splurge if you’re in the area. That restaurant must produce consistently high-quality cooking and have a chef who displays a ‘mastery’ of their trade.

How To Get Two Michelin Stars

This is where things get trickier. Michelin restaurants with two stars garner praise for the quality of ingredients and the restaurant’s identity coming through the cuisine.

Consistency is also vital, with two-start Michelin restaurants expected to be void of mishaps.

How To Get Three Michelin Stars

If you thought it was hard to get two stars, earning three stars is near-impossible.

You only become a three-starred restaurant if the dining experience is nothing short of heavenly. It has to take you on a special journey. Very few venues earn this prestigious rating. It requires the approval of several inspectors, a squeaky-clean history, and a totally unique experience.

These high standards lend Michelin stars a reputation as an exclusive club that only the most upper-market restaurants can enter.

But that isn’t the case. Of course, many restaurants on the list sit firmly within the fine dining bracket. But there are no rules for the type of cuisine or price of food.

Put it this way, in 2016, a Singapore food truck snagged a Michelin recognition. If they can figure out how to win a Michelin star, so can you.

5 Tips for How To Win a Michelin Star

5 Tips for How To Win a Michelin Star

You’ll need skill, persistence and the odd bit of good luck to earn a Michelin star. Here’s how to ensure you’re doing everything possible to impress those fly-by-night inspectors.

1. Only Use the Best Ingredients

Everything starts with the ingredients and products you use. Michelin inspectors know exactly what to look for. So do yourself a favor by working with conscientious suppliers. They should understand what it takes to grow, catch and create sustainable, top-shelf ingredients.

This might mean paying more. It could result in you having to travel to meet suitable sources. But if you’re serious about gaining a Michelin star, this is where it all begins.

2. Ensure Your Chef Becomes a Master

When people talk about a great Michelin restaurant, you’ll notice one subject that always comes up: the chef.

In most ways, they’re responsible for an establishment’s reputation and rating. Chefs like Alain Ducasse (who received the second-highest number of Michelin stars ever) are masters of storytelling through gastronomy.

Whoever’s at the helm of your kitchen must be at the absolute top of their game to influence your Michelin-worthiness.

There are two characteristics all top chefs share:

  • They know how to produce consistently incredible food at the restaurant scale
  • They understand the business mechanics of ingredients, wastage and sustainability.

Your chef, therefore, not only needs to be an incredible cook—but they also need to be a savvy businessperson too.

Remember: even when a head chef leaves, your restaurant is responsible for maintaining your star.

Ensure your personality runs through everything you do

3. Ensure Your Personality Runs Through Everything You Do

Restaurants with Michelin stars are all instantly engaging. Something about them immediately creates interest and intrigue, extending through everything they do, from the menu to the ambiance.

That’s why it doesn’t pay just to do what everyone else does. Don’t just look up the most popular types of restaurants in the US and assume you should follow suit.

But you need a restaurant with its own theme or personality (which might very well be your chef’s personality). This will make it unique and help you align it with your corporate identity.

Michelin inspectors are keenly aware of restaurants needing more personality. Even if the food is top-notch, the lack of unique branding elements or experiences won’t impress them.

Whatever your brand is, it shouldn’t waver. This means your team, branding and public image must also come along for the ride.

4. Create Great Value

How do you win a Michelin star? Make it worth it.

Running a Michelin Guide-rated restaurant doesn’t give you carte blanche to charge astronomical prices. You can’t cover everything in caviar and foie gras, thinking you’ll get to the top just by featuring luxury. The value of your food has to align with the price.

When inspectors visit, they look for this. They’re not automatically impressed by the high cost. You need substance to deliver a memorable experience to each customer.

For that reason, take menu pricing practices seriously.

5. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

This is arguably the most important thing you’ll need if you’re serious about gaining a Micheline Star (or three).

Any restaurant can have an incredible one-off night of food and service. But the best do this every single day.

They’re like a West End musical; every performance is identically perfect, engaging and delightful. No matter how many times it has taken place previously.

The closer you get to a Michelin star, the more you need to keep your service level, quality and experience high.

I’ve Earned a Star. Now What

I’ve Earned a Star. Now What?

If you’re lucky - and hard-working - enough to gain a Michelin star. What happens next?

Enjoy the Spotlight

The good news is that you can expect plenty of attention from the media, Michelin themselves and your new fans. No doubt you’ll see a boom in your business’s online reputation. But there’s plenty of additional pressure, too.

Prepare for Assessments

Keeping a Michelin star requires maintenance and regular assessments. This can take its toll on restaurant owners. The key is to stick with your employed strategies and avoid putting too much stress on yourself.

Think to the Future

You worked hard, and now you have a Michelin-starred restaurant. Keep it up, and you might earn another. But time in the kitchen isn’t the only way to reach the top of your industry.

Now that you know how to win a Michelin star, it’s time to turn your eyes toward the future. It’s time to explore new avenues to bolster your reputation and business.

Like using customer segmentation for marketing, or offering free guest wifi to customers, so they always feel at home.

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