Michelin Stars – a prestigious award in the culinary world
Most serious chefs dream of earning recognition and accolades from their peers in the restaurant world. In terms of prestige, being awarded Michelin Stars (particularly three, the highest level) is sort of like the Oscar award of the culinary world. What does it mean to be awarded this honor and how does a chef and restaurant earn this distinction?
The Michelin Red Guide started as a guidebook for travelers in France, helping them find food, gas stations, and hotels. In later years, other European countries were added and Michelin started reviewing and rating more and more establishments. Now the Michelin Red Guide covers three U.S. cities: New York, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay and Wine Country. Michelin itself refers to its guides as the benchmark in gourmet dining.
The Michelin Red Guide of New York City in 2014
“Three-star rankings are extremely rare with only 26 three-star rankings in France and 81 in the world in 2009,” says Leslie Eckert, a Chef instructor at The Art Institute of Tampa.
In order to recognize up-and-coming restaurants, Michelin began awarding “rising stars” to restaurants that may have the future potential of earning stars. Chefs and restaurant owners in the running for a star must be absolutely vigilant about their quality and service because inspector visits are anonymous and thorough.
“Michelin inspectors visit every Michelin-rated restaurant once every 18 months. A prospective one-star restaurant candidate could receive up to four visits prior to its award. A perspective two- or three-star restaurant could receive up to 10 visits prior to its award. Visits are anonymous,” Eckert says.
Symbol of a Michelin Star
What is it like to be the recipient of this prestigious award? Eleven Madison Park in New York City received three Michelin Stars for the first time in 2012. Sharing in this honor are both Executive Chef Daniel Humm and General Manager Will Guidara.
“With every accolade that we’ve received, we’ve been incredibly humbled,” Humm says. “Those awards have encouraged us to continue on our path toward trying to be the best, most innovative, most inspired restaurant that we can be. And with that goal comes the spark to take risks and to push the envelope.”
Daniel Humm, Executive Chef of the 3-Michelin Stars Eleven Madison Park restaurant in New York
Receiving three Michelin Stars has given Humm and Eleven Madison Park the freedom to experiment even more with the restaurant.
“In receiving the recognition that comes with these prestigious awards, we feel as though we no longer have to prove ourselves; rather, we have to live up to and surpass the expectations that come with them. As such, we are able to take risks knowing that our diners trust in us and believe in what we are doing,” Humm says.
As a native of Switzerland, he grew up working in Michelin-starred restaurants around Europe. Because of this, he always dreamt that Eleven Madison Park would rank with the best of the revered European restaurants. Now that this has been achieved, the future is looking bright for Eleven Madison Park.
“More than anything, though, we want to inspire others as much as we’ve been inspired. We’re incredibly proud to have just published our first cookbook; we’re working on the NoMad Hotel project; we’re enjoying working together with so many amazing people. One could say that we have our hands full,” Humm says.