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Explained: What is Michelin Star

Celebrity chef loses loses lawsuit over one of three stars. What are these stars, awarded to restaurants?

La Maison des Bois restaurant. (Source: Chef Marc Veyrat’s website)

FOR ANY restaurant, the highest honour in the business is three “Michelin stars”, provided the restaurant is in a country covered by this rating system. Michelin stars are in the news now because of a lawsuit against the Michelin Guide, which awards them.

THE CONTEXT:

In 2018, the French restaurant La Maison des Bois won its third Michelin star. In 2019, the Michelin Guide stripped it of the third. Celebrity chef Marc Veyrat sued the company, asking for reasons for the downgrade and demanding $1 in symbolic damages. This week, a French court ruled against him, saying Michelin need not share the reasons and there was no proof that any damages were suffered.

WHAT’S A STAR:

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In 1889, brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin founded the Michelin tyre company. To encourage motorists, they gave out a free guide with information such as maps, how to change a tyre, where to get fuel – and where to eat. As the restaurant section grew in popularity, the brothers recruited a team of “mystery diners”, who visited and reviewed the restaurants anonymously. From 1926, the guide started awarding single stars.

One item from its cuisine. (Source: Chef Marc Veyrat’s website)

HOW IT WORKS:

In 1936, the Michelin Guide started the started the three-star system — one star for “a very good restaurant in its category”; two for “excellent cooking, worth a detour”; three for “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”. Every year, restaurants visited by “mystery diners” can be awarded or stripped of a star.

Restaurants are judged on five criteria: quality of the ingredients used, mastery of flavour and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in his cuisine and value for money and consistency between visits. The restaurant inspectors, who remain anonymous, do not look at the interior decor, table setting or service quality when awarding stars.

While Veyrat sued the company, it is important to note that the stars are given to the restaurant, not the chef. The same chef can prepare cuisine for two restaurants, each earning a star, but cannot claim these to be his or her stars. On the other hand, two different chefs can fetch the same restaurant two Michelin stars over two different years, but these will belong to the restaurant.

WHERE IT WORKS:

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The Guide began by covering French restaurants, but has now expanded across the world. The Michelin website says the Guide now rates over 30,000 establishments in over 30 territories across four continents, including Asia. To be reviewed, a restaurant needs to be in a territory where a Michelin Guide already exists. No Michelin Guide exists for any Indian city yet.

First published on: 03-01-2020 at 03:12:41 am
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