Seeing Stars: What is the Michelin Guide?

Have you ever wondered about the Michelin Guide and its stars? The Guide (pronounced geed in French) gives out stars from 1 to 3 when it reviews restaurants; this is the most prestigious rating that a restaurant can get. The acquisition or loss of a star can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant. See the entertaining film The Hundred-Foot Journey to see what restaurants will do to keep their stars. So what do the stars represent?

One star: “A very good restaurant in its category”

Two stars:  “Excellent cooking, worth a detour”

Three stars: “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”

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A Little History of the Guide

The Michelin Guide actually started as a way to sell more tires. By 1900 the tire makers André and Édouard Michelin had been in business for 11 years, primarily making bicycle tires. They were ready for the automobile age, even though they had a very limited audience for their car tires. There were only 3,000 cars in all of France at the time! In order to encourage use, and wear and tear on the tires, the brothers hit on a brilliant idea: write a guide book for hotels and restaurants that would entice motorists to make some road trips.

The original Michelin Guides were free and contained maps, instructions for changing and repairing tires, lists of mechanics, gas stations and other useful information for travelers.

Aventure Michelin - Clermont-Ferrand - 30/01/2012 - photos Bastien et François BAUDIN / Agence AUSTRAL
Aventure Michelin – Clermont-Ferrand – 30/01/2012 – photos Bastien et François BAUDIN / Agence AUSTRAL

It wasn’t until 1926 that the guide began to award stars for fine restaurants, and back then there was only one star involved. In the 1930s they established the system we recognize today with the 3 stars, and have further refined it over the years to include Bib Gourmand. Introduced in 1955, it highlights restaurants offering “exceptional good food at moderate prices.” The critics that grade the restaurants are called inspectors; many are former chefs, all have background in culinary arts. They are further trained by Michelin Guide in France.

michelin-bib-gourmand
Look for the hungry Michelin Man for Bib Gourmand ratings.

Growing Up in the Shadow of Michelin

Ariane’s father, Chef André Daguin, owner and chef of the Hôtel de France in Auch from 1960 to 1997, collected 2 Michelin stars and garnered a worldwide reputation as a leader in nouvelle cuisine. A virtual wizard of foie gras, and the originator of the duck magret steak, Chef Daguin exerted powerful culinary influence and remains a legend. Many American chefs, like Tom Colicchio and Kerry Heffernan, were lucky enough to work in his kitchen during their apprentice years.

Ariane Holds Court at Hotel Restaurant
Andre Daguin and his mother serving at the restaurant in the Hotel de France. Ariane sits in the corner, charming the diners.

And Ariane sometimes gets back to Auch, as you can see from this recent photo in La Depeche. When her father retired in 1997,  the Hôtel de France was sold to the next family who will carry its legacy into the future.

Ariane returns to Auch and the Hotel de France, where she grew up. Photo: La Depeche
Ariane returns to Auch and the Hotel de France, where she grew up. Photo: La Depeche

Coming to America

Michelin finally made an American guide in 2005, which concentrated on New York, covering 500 restaurants in the city’s five boroughs and 50 hotels.  We are proud to work with many of the Michelin-starred restaurants. To help inspire your next dinner, check out the current list of NYC restaurants boasting Michelin stars. Hats off to each of them! Every star is hard won.

 

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