Conceived in France in 1900 by tire company Michelin to encourage automobile traveling and thus the sales of Michelin tires, restaurant guidebook Michelin Guide has been a leader in popularizing gourmet culture for over a century. Preserving tradition while inspiring young chefs and providing a consistent reference point for diners of all backgrounds, the Michelin Guide today serves as the premier arbiter of restaurants, sparking media excitement and frenzy in cities worldwide.
Welcome to the 56th edition of magazine B.
Every time I plan a trip, I tell myself, “On this trip, I’m just going to relax and rest and not think about anything at all.” But this never happens. Maybe it’s the line of work I’m in, but I can’t see something new or interesting or impressive and simply pass it by. If it’s food that beckons, drawing the line is even harder. Armed with a long list of restaurants to visit within a limited period of time, I will find myself trying to squeeze in five or six meals a day. I’m sure others who travel for the food have experienced being caught in this happy predicament. Such is the emotional and physical power of food—it moves us, amplifies our senses and connects us to those with whom we can share this experience. Gastronomy, then, goes beyond carefully prepared dishes. The broader culture of enjoying such dishes is what good food is all about.
In this edition of B, we look at the Michelin Guide, the pioneer behind the popularization of quality dining. For over a century, the Michelin Guide has introduced and evaluated major restaurants around the world using its starring system. It was created by the Michelin brothers, who owned a small tire manufacturing company in a small city in France, to encourage travel by car. The starring system was officially adopted in 1933, and the makers of the Michelin Guide have continued to review restaurants in line with rigorous internal standards. The Michelin Guide has long been regarded as the bible of culinary travel: every year countless chefs await the annual Michelin Guide results like students waiting to hear university admissions results. Restaurants that earn the coveted three- star rating become must-visit destinations for enthusiastic gourmands. The enduring authority of the Michelin Guide, peerless in the restaurant industry, is all the more fascinating considering Michelin is a tire maker by trade. Most restaurant reviews are written up by food-related magazines, associations or brands. Michelin’s business is thus utterly unique. The company enlists the services of critics whose identities are kept strictly anonymous and covers the costs of travel expenses and meals. This allows for objectivity and a purity of approach that distinguishes Michelin’s reviews from those of reputation- minded critics or self-important media outlets.
The strict impartiality of the Michelin Guides and the company’s continued investment in them has also contributed to the development of gastronomic culture. In this issue of B, we focus on the Michelin Guide as a medium that captures the trends and developments of the contemporary dining scene. Consumers who visit Michelin-starred restaurants become open to new tastes and to new dining experiences, and chefs set on earning or keeping their stars continue to hone their craft. Not all welcome this dynamic, however. Such detractors argue that chefs spend all their energy producing dishes in the Michelin-accepted style—a style grounded in thoroughly French attitudes—rather than creating something truly original. Some even call this culinary elitism. Objections notwithstanding, the annual publication of the Michelin reviews not only showed that it was possible to formulate indicators measuring the fine dining experience but also sparked impressively diverse efforts at experimentation with food culture. Even among those who regard such developments with skepticism, Michelin’s influence, at least, is hard to deny. And these developments, in turn, have been reflected in the Michelin Guides for London, San Francisco and Asia over the last two to three years. Restaurants specializing in less mainstream cuisines, like Northern European, Peruvian and Sri Lankan, have made their way into the guide’s pages, together with foods more commonly hawked on the streets than served on dining tables with silverware.
That there is no shortage of opinions and views, sometimes conflicting, on the Michelin Guides would suggest that food and dining as a culture encompasses numerous interrelated dimensions: the technique of preparing and combining ingredients, the artistry of talented chefs and the service that restaurants provide to their guests. Today, traditional reviews like those of the Michelin Guide continue to enjoy influence, but they have been joined by a widely talked-about variety of new platforms offering food criticism from different perspectives. I, for one, can’t help but think that food and dining will be an important driver of growth in the days to come. This means we can only benefit from continuing to search out and taste for ourselves food worth traveling for, even if the end destination is somewhere other than a fine dining restaurant in Europe. Such experiences will be valuable to us beyond the gratification of our palates.
Eunsung Park, Editor-in-Chief
Media coverage of the Michelin Guide over the years
Michelin-starred restaurants as seen on Instagram
Food critic Franck Pinay-Rabaroust
A Table at Le Grand Vefour
The epitome of French haute cuisine
A Table at Nakamura
Where Japanese cuisine becomes the consummate work of art
The signature dishes of Michelin-starred chefs
Michelin-starred chef Tim Raue
Trends of the Decade
Ten years of culinary trends in six keywords
The broader, more diversified culinary scene
Bumsoo Kim, Lifestyle creative director, E-Mart Inc.
A Moveable Feast
Travel destinations made memorable by food
The growing lineup of restaurant review platforms and providers
A New Gourmet Route
Four foodies and their recommended culinary tours
Michelin’s origins and legacy
How to use the Michelin Guide
The players at work behind the scenes
Michelin tires and the Michelin Man
The insiders who bring the guide to life
Ups and Downs
Stories surrounding the Michelin stars
- Publisher Suyong Joh
- Media Director Myungsoo Kim
- Content & Editorial Director Eunsung Park
- Senior Editor Heather Yoo
- Editors Jaewoo Seo, Yeongmin Adriana Kim
- Intern Editor Sol Lyu
- Guest Designer Gyeongtak Kang
- Filmmaker Sukwang Baak
- Marketer Hyunjoo Kim
- Sales & Distribution Sanghoon Kim, Suyeon Kim
- Correspondents Mihye Nam (Tokyo), Nari Park (London), Lena Shin (LA), Sanghyeok Lee (Berlin), Jeewon Lim (Milan), Hyeseon Jeong (Paris)
- Publishing JOH & Company
- Eloges de la Cuisine Francaise
- Food Technology that Moves the World
- The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season at El Bulli Ferran Adria. El mag d el Bulli
- Un principe d’emotions
- The Mere Mortal’s Guide to Fine Dining
- Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine Noma, My Perfect Storm”
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi
- Chef’s Table