How to Get a Michelin Star: Lessons from Award-Winning Chefs

Many chefs want to be recognized for their food and cooking style, so they strive towards Michelin stars or prestigious awards from Wine Spectator. These accolades can help a chef receive recognition in the industry and potential customers. But, how to get a Michelin star?

We interviewed a few chefs, managers, and owners who have won Michelin stars to find out what it takes. We found that they all agreed on the importance of consistency in food quality and service.

Moreover, we had the opportunity to interview Werner Loans, a director of Michelin Guides. He answered all questions on how to get a Michelin Star.

In this blog, you will find

  • What is a Michelin star?
  • How to get a Michelin star?
  • Michelin stars are a rating system for restaurants. The Michelin tire company created them to encourage people to drive and buy more tires.
  • The best chefs have learned that they need more than just their knowledge of food to be successful. They also must know the business side.
  • Werner Loans, the Director of Michelin Guides, discusses how to succeed in your restaurant.
  • Michelin stars are given to restaurants based on five criteria.

Let’s dive in! 

Learn how to run a Michelin star-worthy restaurant and get a Michelin Star.

Lightspeed partnered with Michelin-starred chefs to produce a free guide on how to run your restaurant. It’s filled with customer experience, kitchen layout, and plate dressing information.

 

What is a Michelin star?

Michelin stars are given out on a scale of one to three, with only the top establishments in the world qualifying.

One star is awarded for “an excellent restaurant” while two or more means that it offers excellent cooking and is worth going out of your way for. Click To Tweet

 

The history of the Michelin star

The Michelin Guide was initially intended to encourage motorists to explore France and buy more tires. The guidebook has been around since 1900, but it did not cost anything until 1920 when they began charging 7 francs for the book. It started listing hotels by category with stars ranging from zero to three, first introduced in 1931.

Michelin has now expanded to 30 territories in three continents, and it is the only primary restaurant guide that does not publish its list of ratings. Michelin inspectors are experienced food and beverage pros who visit restaurants anonymously, so they do not know when to issue a review.

Meanwhile, Wine Spectator magazine has three categories for recognizing restaurants with great wine lists: Award of Excellence, Best of Excellence, and Grand Award. The James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards began in 1991 to recognize chefs across the United States.

 

Lessons learned from award-winning chefs

I sat down with four award-winning restaurateurs to get their perspective on what it takes to win a Michelin star. Let’s hear their answers on how to get a Michelin star.

how to get a michelin star

Jeju Noodle Bar, New York City, New York

Awards: Michelin Star ⭐️

When Jeju Noodle Bar earned its first Michelin star last fall, the managers were not expecting it because they had never seen a U.S. noodle shop deserve that recognition before. “It was a total surprise,” says Kyung Lee, one of the managers at Jeju Noodle Bar.”We found out about it on the day as our customers did.”

Chef Douglas Kim has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants before, so he knows how to maintain a high level of quality. This is why his new noodle shop was the first Michelin-starred restaurant for noodles.

Chef Douglas never expected to be a star, but deep down, he wanted it. He had no idea how to get a Michelin star. He was trying for the title in his food and ingredients.

Before earning a Michelin star, business was slow. “We’re at a location where we would only be busy during peak hours,” Lee says. “That’s not enough for a restaurant to survive.” This is because they were located in an area that had previously seen three or four restaurants fail before them due to the lack of customer traffic and daytime popularity.

Barolo Grill, Denver, Colorado

The Wine Spectator has given this wine its Grand Award Winner award for 2018.

Barolo Grill has been open for 27 years, and as the wine list grew, they started receiving consistent two-glass awards. In 2018 they received a Grand Award, which was very exciting.

Moore says that Barolo’s focus on Italian wines helped the restaurant distinguish itself. Eighty of their 112 pages are devoted to Italy, and all staff visits there for two weeks each summer.

When I first opened my restaurant, a cular wine selection allowed me to stand out among other restaurants.

Owner Ryan Fletter was not overly proud of the award, so while a plaque is displayed in a private room at his restaurant for customers to see, no advertising signs had it. Moore says that he has seen an increase in wine drinkers coming into La Monnaie since they won the Grand Award,d even some people who were present when they received their certificate have come back.

Frasca Food and Wine, Frasca, Colorado

The James Beard Awards are awarded annually to America’s best chefs, restaurants, and food writers. They were established by The James Beard Foundation for culinary professionals.

The James Beard award humbles Frasca Foodarend Wine owner Bobby Stuckey that his restaurant won this year. The staff was honored to win Outstanding Service for their wine service in 2013, which had previously been nominated as Outstanding Restaurant but never before recognized for best service.

When the James Beard Foundation nominated Husk as one of America’s Outstanding Restaurants, they were honored. The award has been a success because it helps get recognition from local media and people in their hometowns.

When our restaurant was nominated for a James Beard Award, it became an event that everyone could be proud of. “It’s the whole staff who participated in this piece they call to service, and we call hospitality,” Stuckey says. “From the front of the house to the back of the house—it doesn’t matter what you do on your job—everyone has something here to celebrate.”

Acquerello, San Francisco, California

The Michelin Guide awarded the restaurant two stars, and in 2012, it received a Wine Spectator Grand Award.

Acquerello first earned a Michelin star in 2007 and the second one only three years later. Owner Giancarlo Paterlini explains that, at the time of its publication, it was more recognized outside of America but now carries more prestige domestically as well.

In response to the changing demographics of Las Vegas, Chef Tony Gemignani has adjusted his menu by adding more international options.

Wine Spectator has also recognized Acquerello. Paterlini says that this recognition helps draw in wine enthusiasts looking for a restaurant with an extensive selection of wines.

Some of the guests have birthdays in 1952 or 1948, and they want to drink a wine made on their birthday. We provide this for them.

What does each winner have in common?

In interviewing the Michelin-starred restaurants, we found three critical themes on how to get a Michelin star:

  • Quality is essential for any restaurant that wants to win a Michelin star.
  • Restaurants need to have a unique selling point that will set them apart from the competition. Whether it’s an exclusive wine list or how your chefs approach certain types of cuisine, you should do something different to get coveted stars.
  • Great service can be the difference between a memorable experience and an awful one. Providing employees with training on what to do, who they should interact with, and how best to serve will help create an excellent atmosphere for your customers.

how to get a michelin star

Exclusive interview with Werner Loans, Director of the Michelin Guide

For many chefs, their first Michelin star is a momentous occasion. To learn more about this honor and the secrets to success, we interviewed Werner Loans, who has been with Michelin for over 20 years.

Can you tell us about the Michelin Guide and what it represents? 

Michelin has been helping drivers for more than 120 years. The Michelin Guide was initially designed to make driving safer and enjoyable, which it does by providing information about mobility.

Early guides were often divided into two sections: one with a list of garages and hotels. The garage section would show motorists where they could take their car for repairs, which took days to complete.

I then added the idea of adding itineraries and numbers to these roads, hence how we know them today, such as N7 or D54.

How do you find the restaurants you are going to visit?

Each region is assigned an inspector to find restaurants that are not following the health code.

The inspector finds restaurants that they think are worth testing. It’s much easier to find new ones with the internet and social networks, but you had to rely on word-of-mouth back in the day.

Oh, how times have changed!

How does a chef get their first Michelin star?

Michelin’s guide to restaurants is based on the chefs who use only the best ingredients, have mastered cooking techniques and refined cuisine.

The most important thing to receive Michelin stars is consistency. Click To Tweet

Eating out is a massive part of our lives. We eat about 220-250 meals per year in restaurants, or two times every day.

If several inspectors inspect restaurant-complicated advice at different times of the year, it should always have good food.

When inspectors disagree, they must reach a consensus. The process can be difficult when there are several people with different opinions.

What advice do you have for chefs aspiring to win a Michelin star? 

We don’t give advice to chefs because we want them to be creative. Our actors have criteria for their reports, but they prefer not giving out the details and letting each chef shine through.

What are your selection criteria?

The Michelin guide is about the quality of food, how it tastes, and whether or not you can find consistency.

How is a Michelin star life-changing for chefs?

We created this guide for people who are passionate about food. We want to help them find the best restaurants and eateries around to have a fantastic experience.

Many articles prove how a Michelin star can increase sales by 30% to 50%.

How important is food? What are the other factors that contribute to a restaurant’s greatness?

The Michelin star is awarded based on the food quality. The ambiance of a restaurant has less weight for us.

We also take into accouconsiderthe price ratio, which is more of a stylistic preference. For example, we know that service and process differ between small-scale restaurants with inexperienced staffs vestaffhose staffed by experienced professionals.

Some restaurants have a more straightforward menu and decor but still, show how to cook well.

What would stop you from going back to a restaurant?

When I eat out, I expect a restaurant to provide me with quality food and good service.

I would not go back to a restaurant that operates like an assembly line where food is churned out, and the chef does not care about cooking.

 

The five selection criteria for Michelin star restaurants

-The ambiance of the restaurant is essential. -It must have a high level of service to match its food quality. -Its prices are an indicator of their creativity and innovation in cooking, not just ingredients used.

how to get a michelin star

  • High-quality produce
  • Chefs who have mastered the techniques of cooking
  • The taste of the food
  • Savoir-faire
  • I have always strived to create a consistently excellent dining experience.

 

Learn more about the mindset award-winning chefs

One of the best ways to learn about how top chefs became successful is by watching our YouTube miniseries, Meet the Chef. Watch season 1 below.

If you want to see more, then good news! Season 2 of Meet the Chef is now live. Watch it here.

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