What Are Michelin Stars?

Restaurants around the world strive to earn the coveted Michelin star status — but what exactly are Michelin stars, and why are they so important?


While the Michelin brand is well-known for its tires, the Paris-based company is also famous for its annual Michelin Guide. Michelin began publishing the travel guide in Europe in 1900 to encourage new drivers to take road trips to local attractions. Among other things, the guide included anonymous European restaurant reviews that focused on the quality and flavor of food served, as well as mastery of culinary technique and personality of the dishes. In 2005, U.S. restaurants become eligible to earn Michelin stars for the first time.

Michelin stars are now considered a hallmark of fine dining by many of the world’s top chefs — not to mention restaurant patrons. The stars are not easy to obtain and are awarded to the best restaurants in each particular city in the guide. Star recipients gain immense prestige and exposure along with the honor, and many restaurant owners also see an increase in business after receiving Michelin stars (while some who lost stars have experienced the opposite).


Saison (Josh Skenes, Owner & Executive Chef, Culinary Arts 2001) – Awarded 3 Michelin Stars

Today, Michelin publishes annual guides for 23 countries and a variety of large cities around the world. In the United States, Michelin Guides are available for New York City, Chicago and California.

Here's what it's like to launch your career at a Michelin-starred restaurant.


Restaurants can receive one to three Michelin stars, and it’s important to remember that even one Michelin star is considered an honor. A one-star review is not meant to criticize a restaurant’s dishes, but rather to praise them.

The star ratings are defined as follows:

  • One star: The restaurant is considered very good in its category but is limited in some way. This restaurant has a quality menu and prepares cuisine to a consistently high standard, but it may lack a unique element that would bring people back over and over again.
  • Two stars: The restaurant has excellent cuisine delivered in a unique way. This restaurant has something exceptional to offer and is worth a detour to visit while traveling.
  • Three stars: The restaurant has exceptional cuisine and is worth a special trip just to visit. Rather than being a stop on the way to a destination, this restaurant is the destination. This restaurant serves distinct dishes that are executed to perfection.

Michelin’s reviewers (called “inspectors”) are completely anonymous and must share a passion for food and an eye for detail. Inspectors are prohibited from speaking to journalists, and are encouraged to keep their line of work secret even from family members.

When an inspector visits a restaurant, he or she writes a comprehensive report about the dining experience, including factors such as the quality of the food, the presentation of the dishes and the mastery of culinary techniques (while ignoring elements such as décor, table setting and quality of service). The inspectors then come together to discuss the reviews and decide which restaurants should receive stars.

See ICE alumni with Michelin Guide recognition.


With the addition of the 2016 Michelin star recipients, International Culinary Center alumni and faculty have won a total of 137 Michelin stars.

ICC’s 2016 Michelin star recipients include:

  • Three Stars:
    • Manresa — DAVID KINCH, ICC Dean
    • Saison — JOSH SKENES, Culinary Arts 2001
  • Two Stars:
    • Momofuku Ko — DAVID CHANG, Culinary Arts 2001
  • One Star:
    • Blue Hill — DAN BARBER, Culinary Arts 1994
    • Meadowsweet — POLO DOBKIN, Culinary Arts 2000
    • Public — DAN RAFALIN, Culinary Arts 1996
    • Sepia — ANDREW ZIMMERMAN, Culinary Arts 2000

The prestige that comes with even a single Michelin star is an honor coveted by chefs around the world. To learn more about ICC’s Michelin star recipients, or get information about how ICC can help you launch your own culinary career, please fill out the form on this page.

This blog post was originally published by the International Culinary Center (ICC), founded as The French Culinary Institute (FCI). In 2020, ICE and ICC came together on one strong and dynamic national platform at ICE's campuses in New York City and Los Angeles. Explore your culinary education where the legacy lives on.

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