A History Of The Michelin Guide
8 April 2020
“Excellence in taste according to the MICHELIN Guide, creating a total experience”
A guest post by Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the MICHELIN guides.
“In more than 32 countries, the MICHELIN Guide embodies the taste experience with its selection of restaurants established by its inspectors, who are all experienced hospitality and catering professionals. Their anonymous table tests have made the reputation of the Guide and are based on five universal criteria: the quality of the products, the mastery of cooking and the harmony of the flavours, the personality of the chef expressed on the plate, value for money, the consistency over time and across the whole menu. They thus establish the selection of restaurants, including Plates (honouring a good meal), Bib Gourmand (good quality, good value cooking) and finally the Stars (from one to three for high quality cuisine, excellent cuisine, and exceptional cuisine).
Five criteria, and also five senses: the Michelin experience is 360 °, a true “guide of emotions”.
For almost 120 years, the MICHELIN Guide has forged a leadership in gastronomy and now goes well beyond. A springboard for tourism attractiveness, it is a total experience that the MICHELIN Guide proposes, as Antonin Artaud said: “total theatre”. We celebrate something extremely fleeting and ephemeral: taste, which is the only qualifying criterion to obtain a Michelin star. It is at the epicentre of the experience that we propose with an archipelago that unfolds.
Before tasting comes sight and smell. You first taste with these two senses, you look at your plate and you feel it. In kitchens, you also use hearing and touch. There are the sounds of cooking, and all the elements of a brigade at work. The chef who holds and cuts his products looks like a sculptor. In this respect, gastronomy stands at the level of “total art”.
The experience also includes the way you are welcomed to the restaurant. This is the first gesture that introduces you to this unique place that is not your home. It is a gesture that counts, because it presents the first impression and the soul of the restaurant. And the person who welcomes you must make sure that you are happy. It’s a bigger challenge than we imagine. The customer may be grumpy when he arrives, and yet when he comes home he must feel content and at ease, he must be at one the world.
It’s the attention to detail: from the welcome, to the dishes, through to your glass of wine that sublimates and completes the flavours of your dining experience.
The MICHELIN Guide challenges excellence to offer a showcase to its readers. And it is this philosophy that creates the total experience. I like this word very much because it designates, etymologically, both the test and the skill. It is in practice and in persistence that the beauty of the gesture takes shape. The Michelin Guide, beyond restaurants, is this philosophy. “The wonderful is always in the everyday,” André Breton wrote. In our turn to show us surreal, that is to say to go beyond the real, to anticipate it. It’s the way we look at the world around us, where we are a link. To rise to the challenge is to give back to each of these gestures that count their poetry, but also in the challenges that are offered to us. Poetry is as much in the presentation of the dessert that you discover, as in the way you meet your personal challenges. It’s a worldview. Look at Edgar Degas who is inspired by the jellyfish movement to paint his dancers: the umbrella of the jellyfish pre-exists the tulle of the dancer. To paint, it is this natural, perfect and fleeting movement that must be grasped. We are in this movement.
The gesture is precision, know-how. And when these gestures are put end to end then you attend a real choreography. From planting the product to serving the customer, everyone comes together to create an atmosphere, a life that the Michelin Guide showcases.
The notion of wonder seems to us paramount.
By the restaurants we recommend following our inspectors’ experiences, or in our tailor-made events. With the automobile of course, we organize incredible events for companies like Porsche or AMG, but also with chefs and individuals.
Because this is an integral part of the Group’s DNA, we have the chance to evolve in a field that requires continuous adaptation. It’s an opportunity to explore new trails and discover them. The important thing is the movement, the one we want to impulse. It allows you to create, innovate, and question your habits.
In 2020 Michelin will celebrate120 years of the Guide! That means 120 years of wonderful gastronomic selections that we are proud to share with our customers. During this time we have seen an evolution in culinary practices and in our relationship with our customers. We are part of a world in perpetual mutation and we must evolve with it because it is our responsibility, especially to future generations. This is shown in the seasonality of products and the sustainable practices of the chefs. By the events we organise with clients including Porsche and AMG, and by the establishments we recommend in our guides, we have an important role to play. Each and every one of us, by our day-to-day actions is engaged in the construction of the world of tomorrow. Quality and sustainability are the core values we promote.
Both in the kitchen and on the plates we will encourage respect for the environment and the seasons, which are also help to guarantee a high quality final product. In 2018, we presented the award for sustainable gastronomy to chef Christopher Coutanceau who is doing an incredible job promoting sustainable fishing. In addition, there are many others who have invested their time and resources into worthwhile projects. In Brazil for example, the restaurant Corrutela has an objective to be eco- responsible from end to end. The dishes are mainly composed of organic vegetables, fish and seafood, stale foods are transformed into compost, plastic is banned in favour of recycled glass, and the solar panels on the roof supply the whole place with electricity. This is a beautiful challenge that is being effectively met.
In September Michelin will publish a coffee-table book which follows inspectors on their global voyage of gastronomic discovery. In it you will see that the differences between cultures are as fascinating as their fusion, and discover the different cooking techniques and resources. It is this curiosity and their desire to share their experiences that drives Michelin’s inspectors. There are extraordinary terroirs to discover, incredible flavours and ways of cooking and eating. The chefs embody the traditions and evolutions of the gastronomic cultures intrinsic to their countries, and they create innovative dishes with their own influences. It is this vision of the world, and the chefs’ personal commitment that they communicate through their cooking, that is focusing diners on a world of gastronomy synonymous with elegance and lifestyle.”