For restaurateurs and lovers of fine dining alike, the Michelin star needs no introduction. It is the universally-acknowledged mark of an exceptional establishment. Earning this coveted accolade and earning a place in the vaunted Michelin guide can put your restaurant on the map and gain a loyal following of dedicated gourmands and instil a great deal of goodwill in your brand.
But what exactly is a Michelin star? How difficult is it to win one? And what are its inspectors looking for when they visit? Let’s take a look.
What is a Michelin star? Understanding the accolade
A Michelin star is arguably the world’s foremost symbol of culinary excellence. Restaurants can be awarded one, two or even three stars for offering an outstanding contribution to the culinary arts. The grading is as follows:
1 star- “A very good restaurant in [its] category”
2 stars- “Excellent cooking, worth a detour”
3 stars- “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”
Today, there are 188 Michelin-starred restaurants throughout the UK. Of these, only 8 have been able to gain the maximum award of 3 stars.
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How do you get a Michelin star? Understanding the criteria
In order to understand how to get a Michelin star, it’s perhaps best to examine the official criteria. While the organisation is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to its official assessment rubric, The Michelin Guide’s official website explicitly mentions 5 basic criteria for gaining this award. These include:
Quality ingredients are the foundation that good cooking is based upon. While culinary mastery can elevate humble ingredients, the best cooking focuses on the highest quality ingredients and enhances their inherent qualities. This means that restaurateurs should always seek to forge relationships with the best suppliers, bringing the freshest and tastiest ingredients to the plate.
Ingredients do not necessarily have to be expensive or flashy. Gold leaf or foie gras won’t necessarily impress inspectors. Just focus on simple ingredients of the best quality. As Michelin Guide international director Michael Ellis says, “Making the simple sublime will get our attention.”
To gain a Michelin star requires both style and substance, and inspectors look for technical proficiency that delights the senses. Food must not only be beautifully presented but bring textures and flavours to the fore to make a truly memorable dining experience. Inspectors will also look for evidence of an organised kitchen, paying attention to the timing of servings and the temperature of the food.
Great cooking is as much of an art as a science. As such, inspectors look for a sense of the chef’s personal idiosyncrasies in the food. It may showcase their influences, carry a unique flavour profile or be presented in a unique and intriguing way.
Value for money
Some may assume that only expensive food served to a privileged elite is worthy of a Michelin star. However, inspectors do consider value for money and whether the overall dining experience is worth a trip for diners.
In order to gain the coveted Michelin star, it’s important to ensure excellence as standard. Michelin inspectors will visit a restaurant several times before making a decision, usually with different inspectors visiting each time. A lack of consistency can not only preclude you from a Michelin star, it can cause your restaurant to lose them.
So… how does a restaurant get a Michelin star?
If winning a Michelin star was easy, every restaurant would have one. Nonetheless, knowing what inspectors are looking for is a good way to get noticed. Former Michelin inspector Pascal Rémy has stated that restaurants must get on Michelin’s “to review” radar in order to earn a star. In order to do this, chefs must:
Develop an obsession with quality
Restaurants must make a commitment to quality as their top priority in order to get on Michelin’s radar. Food must be made from the finest ingredients, cooked with panache and served precisely. There are no shortcuts here, and consistency is key. In the words of Michelin star-winning chef Lam Ming Kin, “Cooking involves craftsmanship and a human touch. There is no fast solution to this. You need to spend time with your cooks and train them step by step”.
Stand out from the crowd
Your restaurant should look, feel and taste like your restaurant. Dishes should carry your personality and the whole restaurant should reflect your unique approach to the cuisine.
Invest in delivering outstanding service
It can help you to manage both the front and back of the house easily and efficiently to ensure that the whole dining experience is of the same high standard as the food. It’s also worth taking the time to put together an employee handbook to standardise employee training and maintain consistent standards.
How to Get a Michelin Star FAQs
Will a Michelin star improve my business?
Numerous Michelin star-winning restaurateurs have said that the accolade has improved or even saved their business. Kyung Lee, manager of Jeju Noodle Bar admits that prior to winning the award business was fairly quiet despite the great food “We’re at a location where we would only be busy during peak hours. That’s not enough for a restaurant to survive”. Winning the award turned a restaurant that was off the beaten track into a sought-after destination.
Do Michelin inspectors factor in anything other than food?
Inspectors are looking for unique experiences. While this is predominantly based on food, the standard of service and the organisation of the kitchen are also factored into their assessment as these contribute to the dining experience.
Can you lose a Michelin star?
There are numerous aspects of culinary excellence that Michelin inspectors value, but one of them is consistency. Therefore, if inspectors visit the same establishment multiple times and find that the restaurant does not offer a consistently excellent experience, the star can be taken away. However, inspectors know the enormity of the impact this can have on a restaurant’s (and restaurateur’s) reputation and take this decision very seriously.
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