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A Short History of the Famous Michelin Guide

Most of you have probably heard already about The Michelin Guide and about the fact that the world’s best restaurants and chefs are awarded Michelin Stars. But we’re assuming that for most of you this might be all you know about this topic. And who could blame you? We don’t have any Romanian restaurants listed in the Guide yet (check it out on the map – the closest seem to be in Budapest).

But let’s see how this all began, because its 1900 origins had little to do with luxury restaurants or exquisite gastronomical experiences. In fact, you’re probably associating the Michelin name with the automobile industry, especially with tires and no, it’s not only a coincidence. Those who published the first edition of The Guide were the Michelin brothers Andre and Edouard, precisely the tire manufacturers; and their initial goal, of course, had everything to do with their business – basically, the first 35,000 copies of the Michelin Guide, offered free of charge, were dedicated to motorists in France, thus included maps, instructions for changing tires, and repairing them, a list of mechanics, hotels and restaurants, all meant to increase demand for cars which, in turn, would have increased the demand for tires.

Gradually, more and more Guides emerged, for other countries and at one point the first “star” was born (1926). In 1931 another one came along, and five years later, in 1936, the three-star system, also in use today, was born (although the criteria for rankings has surely been refined considerably). And if you’re wondering what the stars meant, know that: one star stood for “a very good restaurants in its category”, two stars were the mark of “excellent cooking, worth a detour” and the three stars were about “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.

Currently, The Michelin Guide is the supreme symbol of quality, but it’s interesting that it is still evolving. OK, it might sound weird that the first US edition was edited as recent as 2005, but the pace of change increased – for example, in 2014 there was a separate special edition in Ireland for “gastropubs” (basically, restaurants in pubs), and 2016 is the year that implemented a list of “notable street food establishments” for Hong Kong and Macau.

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