Foodies often toss around the term "Michelin-starred chefs" or "Michelin-starred restaurants." If you're not entirely sure why Michelin --- which you thought was a tire company --- is starring restaurants, this article will help answer any questions you may have about this prestigious rating.
What Michelin Stars Are
The Michelin tire company launched guidebooks in the 1900s, which included ratings of restaurants from anonymous reviewers. Even today, Michelin relies entirely on a full-time staff of anonymous reviewers to put together their restaurant reviews. The company reviews restaurants in dozens of cities across the world.
Many people who talk about Michelin stars use the French pronunciation when referring to the restaurant ratings. They will call it "Meesh-lahn" stars. In Britain, others say it more like "Mitchel-in."
Restaurants are awarded zero to three stars, with three stars being the highest possible stars awarded. These stars are coveted because the vast majority of restaurants receive no stars at all. For example, the Michelin Guide to Chicago 2019 includes almost 200 restaurants but only one restaurant received three stars. The Michelin stars are very different than Zagat and Yelp.
New York City's Michelin Stars
Michelin only reviews four cities in the United States: New York, Chicago, Washington DC, and San Francisco. As New York City is the largest in the country, it's no surprise that it also has the most starred restaurants. In 2016, 76 New York restaurants received a Michelin star rating with the following restaurants receiving the coveted 3 stars:
Chicago's Michelin Stars
In 2016, the Michelin Guide handed out stars to only 22 Chicago restaurants, in comparison to New York's 76 restaurants and San Francisco's 38 restaurants. Michael Ellis, Michelin's international director in charge of the guides, heaped praise on Chicago's restaurant community, “There are a lot of really interesting things going on; there are great chefs out there, and the audience is out there; they really like innovation in Chicago.” Only one Chicago restaurant, Alinea Grace, received the coveted 3 stars, indicating a restaurant with exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well.
San Francisco's Michelin Stars
In 2016, the Michelin Guide handed out stars to 50 San Francisco area restaurants. The abundance of fresh produce, creative chefs, and strong kitchen techniques makes the San Francisco area a favorite among fine diners and full of Michelin starred restaurants. Five restaurants received the coveted 3 stars, indicating a restaurant with exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well. These restaurants are: