Michelin Guide - the foodies' bible

Michelin Guide has gone from a drivers' manual to the premier authority on world of fine dining

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 6:26am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 6:26am

From humble beginnings as a practical guide for drivers in France it has become a foodies' bible that stirs fear and favour in equal measure among chefs and gourmands worldwide.

The Michelin Guide - and the stars it bestows - has indeed come a long way from promoting tyres.

First published in 1900, the guide had a 35,000 print run and was the brainchild of Andre and Edouard Michelin, who owned a tyre factory in France. With just 3,000 cars at the time, the brothers created the free book as a way to encourage people to buy cars and, of course, tyres.

The guide was essentially a listing for petrol stations and mechanics, with detailed maps and tips on how to fix a puncture.

Legend has it that because there weren't that many petrol stations, the brothers added details about hotels and restaurants to help fill the pages.

In 1926, a one-star rating was introduced, with the exclusive three-star rating added in 1931.

The guide became so highly regarded for its accurate maps that in 1944, D-Day troops were given the 1939 Michelin edition when they landed in Normandy.

In 2005, the guide expanded to North America and two years later, it launched in Japan.

Hong Kong got its own version in 2009. But inclusion has not meant guaranteed success. One Indian restaurant in Central, Gunga Din's, closed shortly after being awarded a Bib Gourmand - given for outstanding value - due to money problems.

In contrast, a small dim sum joint in Mong Kok, Tim Ho Wan, was awarded one star in the 2009 edition and overnight, it become a darling of the Hong Kong dining scene as the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant.

Nowadays, the guide is published in 23 countries and is considered a powerful barometer of all things haute cuisine. It has attracted allegations that restaurants pay bribes to inspectors to be included or to be given advance notice of their visits.

An air of mystery has been created, as all Michelin inspectors are banned from talking to the press. But in 2004, Pascal Remy published a book about life as an inspector in France, saying the job was lonely, poorly paid and stressful due to staff shortages and strict deadlines. He was fired and lost an unfair dismissal case.

The 2014 Hong Kong and Macau edition, launched on Thursday, now features seven three-starred restaurants. There are 15 two-star restaurants and 51 one-star establishments.

So while the modern-day incarnation of the Michelin guide is worlds apart from its early beginnings, the portly mascot of the tyre company is perhaps fitting for a book that espouses gastronomic decadence.




You may also like