The pursuit of a Michelin star, or ideally more than one, isn’t just about ego, and let’s face it, most leading chefs aren’t lacking in that department; it’s also about legacy and, perhaps most importantly, the financial benefits that come from the mark of genuine quality that the esteemed culinary organization offers.
The history of Michelin stars goes all the way back to 1900 when the first guide was published by the venerable organization by brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin. The first stars were handed out in 1926, and the clamor to secure them remains high to this day.
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Why Do Michelin Stars Matter?
If you are a professional athlete or a world-renowned actor, then you’d look to secure top awards and winners’ medals, perhaps for the Football World Cup or the Oscars, and the Michelin stars that chefs covet matter a great deal as they are a testament to their talents and winning one, or even more, requires a great deal of hard work, dedication, and talent.
Being awarded stars by the Michelin guide has its obvious financial benefits, too, with any establishment seeking to secure the stars to help boost business. Those who have received such an award are clearly more likely to be those with impeccable restaurant furniture, stylish interiors, and above all else, food that is simply heavenly.
Being awarded a star, or even three, acts as an inducement to customers, and it’s a very handy way for connoisseurs of great food to locate where the best seat in town might be, and the awarding of Michelin stars is the guide’s way of highlighting the best available in a given city, wherever it is in the world.
After all, it is the restaurants that receive the star, where the whole service is judged and not just the food being served. Initially, only one star was offered, giving those select few that award, and five years later, this was expanded to two and three stars.
The awarding of stars is a sign of a restaurant’s commitment to the very best in fine dining, and interestingly, an establishment can easily lose its award if it doesn’t maintain those high standards year after year. Hence, it’s a continuous fight for perfection.
What do the Michelin Stars Measure?
Understandably, Michelin is very tight-lipped when it comes to the precise criteria for awarding stars. However, as far as the differences between the gradings, it’s believed that one star represents a restaurant that offers ‘high-quality cooking, worthy of your attention,’ two stars meaning ‘excellent cooking, worth a detour,’ and three stars being ‘exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.’
The awarding of any stars isn’t based on just a single visit and will be the culmination of a number of them and isn’t given by just one single inspector. Presumably, this is to make sure that no one has curried favor with one particular individual or been offered an inducement of some kind.
The gravitas of being awarded Michelin stars, and the organization’s standing as a whole, is practically priceless. As such, there have to be no issues relating to potential corruption.
The judges are anonymous, and by all accounts, they are supposed to take notice of a restaurant’s decor and instead focus solely on the service provided and the meals being served.
Initially, an inspector books a reservation and dines just like any other customer. If they deem the restaurant to be worthy of consideration, this is then highlighted and discussed with the Michelin guide director, who regularly meets with his worldwide team.
They then consider the respective merits of restaurants that have been earmarked for star treatment. Only when there is a unanimous agreement is a restaurant given the award it deserves. The whole process can take months.
Which Cities Have the Most Michelin-Starred Restaurants?
The scope, scale, and importance of the Michelin star system are global, with restaurants all over the world desperate to receive the badge of approval from the organization. This means that there are starred restaurants in every corner of the globe, but clearly, some cities and countries have more of them than others.
So, which cities have the most Michelin-starred restaurants? Well, the leading city may come as a little bit of a surprise, as it’s not Paris; it’s Tokyo in Japan. There are no less than 212 restaurants in the city that have been awarded at least one star, which is simply phenomenal.
Tokyo has led the way for more than ten years, and there are 12 three-star restaurants, 42 with two stars, and 158 with one star.
Next in the queue is Paris, which has 113 Michelin-starred restaurants, which is way behind Tokyo but still a very good indication that the French capital has more than its fair share of fine dining options. There are nine three-star restaurants in Paris.
In third place, we once again return to Japan, with Kyoto having 110-starred restaurants, and in the fourth spot, we have Osaka, with another 96 restaurants receiving at least one Michelin star.
New York sits in fifth place with 76-starred establishments, five of which have the three-star treatment. London is sixth, with 69 restaurants getting at least one star, and the English capital is known for its varied cuisine, which is mirrored by the variety of restaurants in the city that have been held in high regard by the Michelin guide.
Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, and Seoul round out the top ten, which goes some way to showing just how far and wide the Michelin system reaches.
It is perhaps surprising that only two European cities are present in the top ten, but the list does alter quite a bit, and the likes of Berlin, Madrid, and Barcelona also have a good smattering of truly epic dining options to enjoy.