It’s the year 1900 and in Paris the world exhibition is just being prepared. The brothers Édouard and André Michelin have the idea to make travel easier for motorists and to assist them in the selection of accommodation and food. Initially, their guide was distributed to motorists free of charge. Over time categories were added as well as information on comfort, facilities and prices of hotels with the help of pictograms. Soon, the guide was also published in other countries. And, eventually, the guide also started discussing the quality of food in restaurants, awarding three stars for the first time in the 1930s, transforming these establishments into the best-known dining places in the country. Until then, tire dealers helped with the restaurant reviews, but after 1933 only full-time inspectors could be reviewers.
An inspector is always open to traditional cuisine as well as modern trends. After years of training they know how to evaluate the freshness of ingredients, recognise whether production methods are mastered and taste nuanced aromas and flavours. They know the creativity of the cooking style, assess the expertise of the chefs and the price-performance ratio. In a hotel or restaurant, a Michelin inspector appears as an ordinary customer, might have booked in advance and pays their bill.
The qualities necessary for an inspector are an advanced sense of taste, observation skills, discretion and ethics. They also must be able to face the rigors of a demanding lifestyle, because they have to eat in approximately 250 restaurants a year.
A Michelin Guide can fulfil dreams or crush them. To be awarded three stars means “One of the best cuisines: worth the trip,” two stars stand for “Excellent cooking, worth a detour” and one star refers to “A very good restaurant in its category”. Another category, the Bib Gourmand, judges “houses that offer good food with good value for money”.