For actors and directors, it’s an Academy Award. For football players, it’s a Super Bowl victory. For scientists, politicians, and creative types, it’s a Nobel Prize. And for chefs, the highest honor – the crowning achievement of their careers – is a three-star rating from France’s highly influential Guide Michelin.
Now known primarily for its listings and ratings of restaurants, the guide began life, back in 1900, as a manual for early motorists – Michelin was (and is) primarily a tire company – with information on garages, gas stations, and other useful addresses for drivers negotiating the roads of France. In 1922, some restaurants and hotels were added, and as that section grew, the guide began to give a single star to the eating places considered particularly good.
Two- and three-star ratings were added a few years later, and a team of anonymous inspectors was recruited and trained to assess the quality of dining. In 1936, the guide established its famous definitions for the honors: One star signaled “Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie” (a very good table in its category), two meant “Table excellente, mérite un détour” (an excellent table, worth a detour), and the highest accolade, three stars, symbolized “Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage” (one of the best tables, worth a special trip).
As the Guide Michelin grew in popularity, its restaurant listings expanded, and the guide itself ranged further and further afield. Today, stars are dispensed in guides devoted to nine countries or country groupings (there’s a single volume for Belgium and Luxembourg, for instance), plus another 15 focused on individual cities or combinations of cities – including Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. (These are America’s 35 best cities for foodies.)
While a meal at any three-star restaurant – France and Japan are tied with 29 each – will likely be a memorable experience (as well as a very expensive one), some places please diners more than others. (These are 25 things you should never ever do at a fancy restaurant.)
To determine the Michelin three-star restaurants around the world that are most highly rated by what might be called ordinary diners (as opposed to food critics or self-styled gourmets), 24/7 Tempo reviewed data collected by the British-based financial product comparison site Money.co.uk. The site analyzed Tripadvisor reviews, computing the percentage of “excellent” or “very good” reviews each restaurant received to arrive at a ranking of the highest-rated ones.
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