Would you eat in a restaurant highly recommended by a company that sells… tires? That’s exactly what millions of food connoisseurs around the world do when they look to the legendary Michelin Guide, a gastronomic index established by the second-largest tire manufacturing company in the world.
Road to success
As the owner of a tire-manufacturing company, the Michelin brothers Andre and Edouard needed more people to own and use automobiles in order to increase their sales and expand their business.
There were less than 3,000 cars on the roads of France in the 1900s. The brothers came upon the idea of publishing a guide that provided useful information for road travelers, such as maps, locations of gas stations, instructions on how to change a flat tire, as well as hotels and accommodations.
The first edition was distributed for free, and they took a risk of printing an estimated number of 35,000 copies despite the low population of motorists. Surprisingly, not only did it prove useful for French motorists, but it also gained interest from the general public, rapidly making the Michelin Guide the most popular travel guide in Europe. In the following years, Michelin also started publishing travel guides for specific cities.
Their restaurant recommendations became one of the most highly anticipated and respected portions of the guide, and the Michelin brothers started taking this section seriously. They stopped accepting sponsorships and formed a team to visit and inspect restaurants anonymously, slowly forming the Michelin Guide that the world now knows.
Michelin Guide process
The Michelin Guide awards stars for culinary establishments in different cities all over the world. The first star was used in 1926, followed by a second and third star in 1933. With three stars being the highest, the star-rating system is as follows:
[One Star] * – a very good restaurant in its category
[Two Stars] ** – excellent cooking, worth a detour
[Three Stars] *** – exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.
The restaurants are visited by Michelin inspectors anonymously to guarantee that the food quality is consistent and that no special treatment is provided. An article in “The New Yorker” in 2009 gave a peek into the work of a Michelin inspector, revealing how they manage to effectively conduct their vital jobs anonymously.
Instead of taking notes during meal time, they simply evaluate the restaurant using five criteria: quality of products, mastery in cooking, technical accuracy, balance of flavors, and the chef’s personality presented in the cuisine. It was also revealed that restaurants are visited a few times in a year to keep consistency in check, and to settle disputes.
Due to the high regard the world has given the Michelin guides, it is no surprise that a Michelin star can make or break a chef’s career. Michael Ellis, the international director of the Michelin guides, cautioned in a 2015 “Vanity Fair” article that the stars are merely a recognition that’s based on opinion.
While it is also often reminded that the Michelin star is not awarded to the chef but rather to the restaurant, the pressure on culinary professionals to obtain and keep Michelin stars seems to add to existing pressure in their careers and in the kitchen.
The Michelin Guide faced criticism and backlash when an unfortunate incident happened in 2003 involving Bernard Loiseau, the chef and owner of three-star restaurant La Côte d’Or. Rumors spread that he would be losing his third Michelin star, and despite being notified and assured by the company that the talks were unfounded, Loiseau shot himself in the head with a hunting rifle. He was 52 years old.
Michelin in the Philippines
As of 2018, the country with the most three–Michelin starred restaurants are Japan with thirty-four establishments, followed by France and Monaco with twenty-seven. The Philippines has yet to boast of a homegrown restaurant that has received a Michelin star. However, this has not prevented Filipinos from enjoying world-class Michelin-recommended cuisine as many foreign Michelin-starred restaurants have decided to bring their excellent food here.
Din Tai Fung
Who would have thought Din Tai Fung was originally a cooking oil retailer instead of the world-class dimsum restaurant that it is now? Known for their soup dumplings or “xiao long bao,” they were named one of the top ten restaurants in the world by “The New York Times” in 1993. Currently, there are three branches in Metro Manila—located in SM Megamall, Bonifacio High Street and Rockwell Power Plant Mall.
Tim Ho Wan
Originating from Hong Kong, Tim Ho Wan was opened by Mak Kwai-Pui, a former chef of a three–Michelin starred restaurant, Lung Kin Heen. Specializing in Chinese cuisine, this restaurant is known for its extraordinary dimsum recipes, ranging in 25 different flavors. Their baked buns are also a best-seller. Their first branch in the Philippines is in SM Megamall, which later expanded to four more branches in Metro Manila.
It is the world’s first ramen restaurant that’s been given a Michelin star. Their sole branch in the Philippines is at Bonifacio High Street Central in Bonifacio Global City.
FOO’D by Davide Oldani
Contrary to expectations of spending thousands of pesos to experience first-class, Michelin-rated fine dining, FOO’D by Chef Davide Oldani can be enjoyed at an affordable price. A three-course meal reportedly starts at just P800. Their branch is in High Street Park, Shangri-la at the Fort in Bonifacio Global City. It is a smart casual dining place with Michelin-quality food.
If you’re a fan of roasted pork or duck, then Kam’s Roast is a must-try. The specialty of this restaurant from Hong Kong is actually their roast goose, but due to import restrictions this dish is unfortunately not offered in the local menu. Their chicken and duck are foreign-bred but locally grown. Their very first branch is in SM Megamall’s Mega Fashion Hall.
Liao Fan Hawker Chan
The cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant has finally made its way to the Philippines just this 2018. The establishment is well-known for its success story of earning a star for its signature dish, soya chicken rice, being a humble hawker’s stand in Singapore. Their branch in Metro Manila is at the Entertainment Mall of the Mall of Asia Complex.