Michelin restaurants and chefs

So we were watching a cooking show on Netflix recently and noted Michelin 3 star chef, Giorgio Locatelli, was one of the judges. I’m vaguely familiar with the concept of Michelin ratings: as I understand it every year the Michelin company secretly reviews a number of restaurants around the world and then compiles a book with their ratings: awarding one, two, or three stars based on how great they think the dining experience is.

Whenever one hears ‘Michelin star chef’ there’s a sense of awe like there is no higher honor in the culinary world. These are the best of the best. For me, though, this stretches credulity a bit. I mean I’m positive all chefs at restaurants that receive the top Michelin rating are thoroughly competent managers and masters of the cooking craft, but at the same time it just seems the whole experience of dining is such a subjective thing that one questions if the eyes/taste buds of any one reviewer can reasonably say ‘yeah, this restaurant and this chef are THE BEST’. I mean given the choice of dining on sea urchin and prawn at ‘Saison’ or a rack of ribs and side of slaw at Ray’s Smokehouse, I’d probably choose the latter (price issues aside).

How much credence do you give to Michelin ratings? Would you be more inclined to dine at a restaurant that received a 3 star rating versus one that wasn’t rated by Michelin but happens to serve the best fried chicken, steak, chili, fish and chips, or whatever it is you happen to really enjoy eating?

Lastly, does anyone know is there some sort of objective standard that Michelin applies in determining its ratings? I mean, beyond the chef not burning or undercooking something?

I’m not quite sure if I’ve eaten at even a 2 star restaurant or even one that should be a 2 star restaurant, but yes, given the same price, I would rather try a 3 star than a one. But 3 star restaurants are like premium wine: probably better than the next-highest level but more expensive by an order of magnitude, so I don’t actually go there due to the price tradeoff, just like I’ve never bought a bottle of wine for more than $120 (and even then, the description had to be perfect for me to spend that much.)

Michelin rates restaurants in terms of fine dining experience, so while it’s possible Ray’s Smokehouse would be considered it’s not likely to gain a star. Here’s an article that runs down some of the criteria Michelin appears to use - https://www.foodnetwork.ca/dining-out/blog/what-it-takes-to-become-a-1-2-or-3-michelin-star-restaurant/

Michelin isn’t necessarily just about fine dining. A food stall in Singapore recently won a Michelin star: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/singapore-cheapest-michelin-star-restaurant/index.html

I suspect Ludovic is onto something with the price tradeoff. The law of diminishing returns is probably very much a factor where Michelin starred restaurants are concerned. There’s usually a great deal of difference between a $10 bottle of wine and a $100 bottle, but the difference between a $1,000 and a $100 bottle is only marginal (or so I’ve heard/read). The same is probably true of stars at restaurants. One gets the impression there’s a lot being paid for prestige.

I just did a little more reading up on Michelin and it seems they’re sensitive to the $$$ issue. In addition to the star categories, they also have a ‘bib gourmand’ category for the budget-minded diners of the world. This might be for the Ray’s Smokehouses of the world.

That’s really cool!

Having a Michelin Star means something. Not having a Michelin Star means nothing.

I will look at Michelin ratings when visiting a city that has them (They don’t rate all cities, so many restaurants are not eligible for stars simply because of where they are). I use the guide to simplify my life. I’m sure I could get a good fancy meal at a not rated restaurant, but for me, since I can’t eat everywhere anyway, picking from the list is easier. I choose one star restaurants since that meets my needs.

I had a truly memorable meal at a Michelin rated 2 star restaurant. Sad to relate, the restaurant lost its listing in the guide the following year and the chef committed suicide. I never heard any explanation. The meal was extraordinarily expensive (about $80 for 2 in 1964, which must be the equivalent of at least $600 today).

It looks like there are a few in Cleveland. But since I’ve never paid more then $16.99 for an entree I will probably skip them.


There was an interesting article in the April 1979 issue of Playboy, written by a guy who accompanied a Michelin restaurant reviewer on his tour of France.

To keep going, the reviewer took pills that stimulated his liver’s production of bile. The only calories he was able to burn off on the tour were the ones spent on shifting gears in his car. When it was over, he locked himself in his apartment and consumed nothing but mineral water for the next three days.

I don’t think Michelin considers restaurants in Cleveland.

I think you are right. When I Googles for Michelin star restaurants in Cleveland, three show up. But visiting their web pages doesn’t seem to indicate any.


In my experience, one star restaurants will generally be fantastic, but there’s a lot of restaurants nearly or just as good, as well. Consistency is supposedly a factor for stars (which is why Grant Achatz’s extremely well-reviewed Next has no stars – Michelin says the menu and atmosphere change too frequently), so it’s pretty safe that a starred restaurant will be a good experience.

Three star restaurants are operating at a different level. If you go to a three star restaurant, you can genuinely assume you’re going to have both food and service at an absolute world-class level. And you’ll pay for it.

I certainly notice the star ratings when looking for restaurants, but I personally give a little more weight to James Beard awards and local writers. Michelin only reviews the “whole” experience, and I’m personally the type that will tolerate weird atmosphere or imperfect service for really good or interesting food.

I was going to make a joke about “why would I trust a tire company’s opinion of food?”. But in all seriousness,

I really don’t think I would trust ratings coming from someone who’s doing it like this.

A very good book that gives details about both the Michelin system and the pressure on chefs is The Perfectionist, about Bernard Loiseau, a 3-star chef who killed himself. The book provides a lot of background on both Michelin and the history of fine French cuisine. Sadly, suicide is not uncommon among the top chefs.

He also used wine to whet his appetite, farted “heroically,” and spent a lot of time “in the saddle” each morning.

Nice work, if you can get it! :cool:

So, like, all meals at home except fast food?

There are a heck of a lot of restaurants where you can get a meal for less than that. And heck, the best steakhouse I’ve been to was only a couple of bucks more.

For me, Michelin starred restaurants fit a certain category - haute cuisine, stella service, huge attention to detail and a price tag to go with it.

It’s the kind of place I have to really be in the mood for, and while I’ve eaten as some amazing Michelin starred places, these days I tend to prefer a more casual dining experience with independent owner-chefs using great ingredients, prepared with care, but without the high end atmosphere.

I used to live in London and spent a ridiculous amount of money trying every Michelin starred place going. I grew tired of it.


Yeah, I would consider going to a Michelin restaurant to be an event, like going to the theater. An amazing experience but not something I would want to do everyday. I’ve been to Alinea (3 stars) and it was easily one of the greatest meals I’ve ever had. But even if the cost didn’t matter, I couldn’t imagine going more than once a year.