The Star of the Show – The Michelin Guide
With more and more of us becoming interested ‘foodies’ and with the popularity of Celebrity Chefs on TV, we hear the term “Michelin Star” being bandied about quite often.
Yes, when we hear it, we understand that of course the chef or restaurant is of course superior but what does it mean to have a Michelin star rating? And how does an establishment receive one? Are there any in South Africa?
First and foremost a “Michelin Star” is without doubt a hallmark of fine dining quality, serious stuff indeed but funny when you think that the company which started the rating system is in fact a tyre company. And the Michelin guide is where you can find all of the establishments with the coveted Michelin star rating. The ‘star’ itself will proudly be displayed in the particular restaurant.
Michelin, started the concept in the 1900’s to encourage people to drive through France and explore what the country had to offer, thereby boosting the demand for cars which in turn would increase the demand for tyres. What began as a guide book which included maps and information as to how to repair tyres eventually resulted in what is today regarded by many as the bible for fine dining, the Michelin guide. In 1926, the first reviews were published and the rest as they say, is history.
The Michelin rating system started in France and can therefore often seem biased toward French cuisine or technique and of course, very formal dining style, but the essence of the system is that reviewers are to concentrate on the quality, mastery of technique, personality and consistency of the food. These reviews are conducted anonymously by Michelin reviewers and should in theory not concentrate on interior decor, table settings or service quality, the food should speak for itself. Michelin describes itself as ” a professional rating of quality restaurants based on a unique, time-tested methodology that ensures that a Michelin star stands for the highest quality’
So what do the stars mean:
ONE STAR: A very good restaurant in its category.
TWO STARS: Excellent cooking and worth a detour. First class cuisine of its type.
THREE STARS: Exceptional cuisine and worth a special journey. Often extremely expensive, and with an extensive wine list.
Michelin stars are coveted by eating establishments and chefs alike because it is so difficult to get them and once you’ve received one it is a huge achievement and signifies excellence of the highest order in cuisine.
Also, most restaurants receive no stars at all and most restaurants that do get them, receive just one star. To achieve three stars is an accolade of the highest order. From the grandest restaurants to the smallest bistros, the collection of MICHELIN Guides highlights the crème de la crème in hotels and restaurants. These obsessively researched guides detail Michelin’s selection of the finest in cuisine.
Michelin also introduced the “bib gourmand” award for quality food at a value price, for example, it would be two courses plus wine or dessert for $40 (about R400) or less. The award is for great value, best experience.
Strange as it may seem to the ordinary diner, the acquisition or loss of a star can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant.
If fine dining and haute cuisine are part of what you like to experience when on holiday, then the Michelin guide is handy to have on hand. Just remember, the RED guide will lead you to culinary heaven and the GREEN guide, which also uses the star rating system will give you in depth information about your destination, like museums, ‘must sees’, where to stay etc.
Michelin DOES NOT offer a guide to South Africa, but that does not mean that we don’t have establishments worthy of any. In fact, it has been suggested that with all the secrecy and the number of rules surrounding the Michelin rating, a high ranking on the ‘San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants’ list is far more desirable.