How the Michelin Tire Company Became Synonymous With Fine Dining Through Their Star Rating System

Max Miller of Tasting History explained how the Michelin tire company became known as an arbiter of fine dining with their prestigious restaurant star rating system. Miller talked about this while preparing a tasty historic chicken dish from La Mére Brazier, a three star Michelin restaurant in Lyon, France.

It Started Out With Travel Guides by the Michelin Brothers

It began with brothers André and Édouard Michelin going on a road trip to make their bespoke tires known. The brothers also printed free guidebooks that included local maps, car instructions, filling station locations, car repair shops, and even a bit about restaurants.

That first Michelin guide was filled with maps  and information on how to take care of your car, car and tire maintenance. …There were the locations of fueling stations, very few existed then, and auto mechanics in case you broke down. And then almost as an afterthought  there was a list of quality restaurants  that you could visit when you  were going around the country.

Michelin Guide

The Michelin Maps Became More Important Than the Guides During World War II

Miller explained that the guide improved as it grew more popular. Expert cartographers were hired to create more intricate and professional maps.

Michelin hired some of the best cartographers in Europe to create the maps for their guide, and their maps were always up to date every year, it was redone and they were very detailed  and supposedly some of the best available.

In fact, these maps were used during World War II. First by the Germans, who used them to invade European countries, and then by the Americans to help soldiers storm the beaches of Normandy.

The Germans were  preparing for an imminent Allied invasion. They began destroying street signs and and anything that could help the the Allies know where they were going  once they got into France. But someone in the U.S. had a 1939 copy  of the Michelin Guide from France and so in Washington DC in 1944 they  republished many of these old guides and gave them to the soldiers who were storming the beaches of Normandy.

After the war ended, Michelin went back to tires and their popular restaurant reviews, where they became an important part of restaurant history.

Michelin Guide was just for France and  then for for parts mostly of Western Europe. It wasn’t until 2005 that a guide reviewing New York restaurants premiered, and in 2007, a Tokyo guide went on sale. Today the guide covers 37 countries. The guide is both prestigious  and fraught with controversy, and earning or losing a star can make  or break a restaurant and the chef but  today a trip to a Michelin star restaurant is  the promise of a unique culinary experience.  

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.