When Andre Michelin in 1900 published his first edition of a guide to France to help drivers maintain their cars, find good lodging and eat well while being on the road – he probably did not realize his publication would grow to become the best known and oldest European hotel and restaurant guide. In fact back in 1900, Michelin’s guide included directions to garages and public toilets.
Today, the Michelin Guide is an annual guide published for more than a dozen of countries, and also of course awards the highly sought after “Michelin stars”. Michelin hasn’t stopped there though. The company also publishes the Guide Voyageur Pratique (for the independent traveler), Guide Gourmand (eating-places that represent good value), Guide Escapade (quick breaks) and Guide Coup de Cœur (hotels with plenty of character).
Initially the Guide Michelin was free when distributed. This however stopped in 1920, and if one should believe the legend the guide came at a cost – simply to avoid it from not being taken seriously. In 1926 its readers could single out good cooking by the ‘star’. Two and three stars were added in the 1930’s, when the book’s cover also changed from blue to red.
Today, the Michelin guide lists more than 45,00 hotels and restaurants. The French guide is by far the most thorough but also the most popular, with 30 million copies supposedly sold since it was introduced.
Now, with fame, controversy always follows close in tow – right? Yes, so also true for the Guide Michelin. The guide has suffered many accusations from chef suicides to lax inspection standards. Some US food critics have claimed that, because the guide is published by a French company, the rating system is very biased towards French cuisine. For example, when the first New York City guide came out many major US critics were appalled that so many restaurants deemed by them to be of high standing did not receive stars, and that around two thirds of the restaurants who did get stars were in fact serving French cuisine. Some even call the Guide Michelin ‘snobbish’.
But whatever you think, read or hear about this guide – if you are crazy about food, especially French cuisine, it is a must have. If you are traveling to France in search of ‘the perfect meal’ – this guide should be in your luggage for sure. Why? The answer is simple : Michelin has been doing what they do for more than a century. They got to be doing something right.
Buy the Michelin Guide for France from amazon.co.uk: France 2010 Annual Guide (Michelin Guides)