Stories to fuel your mind



Share the story

Story by Lin Stranberg

From molecular gastronomy to sous vide to macarons and avocado toast, our relationship with the table through the decades has been fairly fickle. Foodie trends, culinary techniques and dining styles come and go, but there is only one enduring loyalty: the Michelin Guide.

It has been the definitive authority on eating out for more than a century, the dominant voice of good cuisine with the power to make or break a restaurant or a chef. For example, the French edition published at the end of February 2023 demoted Guy Savoy, a French chef known as “the best chef in the world” by stripping him of a star. His Paris restaurant La Monnaie, famous for its artichoke soup with black truffle parmesan, was suddenly reduced to two stars from the three it had enjoyed since 2002 (reasons are only revealed to chefs, not the general public).

This caused considerable hand-wringing among Paris foodies, with Le Figaro declaring Savoy the “quintessence” of French cuisine. Michel Sarrin, whose Toulouse restaurant serves dishes like braised rabbit with Madiran wine, admitted to shedding a few tears this year when he learned of his downgrade from three to two stars.Then there’s Bernard Loiseau, the chef who in 2003 reportedly shot himself when faced with the potential loss of one of his three Michelin stars.

That’s serious status power for a guide that was initially conceived as a marketing tool. Here’s how it came to be: In 1900, there were just a few thousand vehicles on the roads in France.

To increase demand for cars and thus expand the market for tires, tire manufacturing brothers Édouard and André Michelin published the eponymous Michelin Guide. The first edition was free and nearly 35,000 copies were distributed.

It was an easy source of key information for car owners, including maps, tire repair and replacement instructions, listings of auto mechanics, restaurants, hotels, and parking lots.

It was dedicated to supporting car culture and pleasant road trips. Soon the Guides began to be published in other countries in Europe as well as North Africa. In 1909, the company put out an English-language version of the Michelin Guide to France.

After World War I, when all publication was suspended, newly revised editions of the guide continued to be distributed for free. This went on until 1920. Then, as the story goes, André Michelin, after noticing that copies of the guide were being used to prop up a workbench at a repair shop, decided to charge for the guide, based on his theory that people only respect what they pay for.

The brothers also made several changes around the same time: listing restaurants by specific categories; adding hotel listings (initially only for Paris); and removing ads. Capitalizing on the growing popularity of the restaurant section of the guide, the Michelin brothers recruited a team of inspectors to anonymously visit and review restaurants.

Their criteria were the same then as they are now: quality of products; mastery of flavour and cooking techniques; the personality of the chef as represented in the dining experience; the harmony of flavours; and the consistency of these criteria between inspectors’ visits.

In 1926, the Guide started awarding stars to fine dining restaurants. This system was later changed to one, two, and three stars as a rating. True to its roots, there’s a road trip slant:

One Star

“A very good restaurant in its category”
(Une très bonne table dans sa catégorie.)

Two Star

“Excellent cooking, worth a detour”
(Table excellente, mérite un détour.)

Three Star

Exceptional cuisine, worth aspecial journey”
(Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage.)

Sponsored Ads

The Bib Gourmand designation (not quite a star, but a lot more than a consolation prize) was introduced in 1997 for restaurants that offer both great value and quality, specifically two courses plus either a glass of wine or dessert for under $60 Canadian.

Bib is short for Bibendum, the Michelin Man’s actual name, and in the guides his face is shown with his tongue licking his lips, designating “restaurants offering exceptionally good food at moderate prices.

” The Michelin Guide keeps tabs on local food preferences, too. In countries like Spain, for example, where tapas are served, good tapas bars are identified with a wine and toothpick icon; in the UK/Ireland guide, worthy pubs are indicated with a beer mug icon; and a cart symbol recognizes Asian street food stalls. Restaurants with notable wine, sake and cocktail lists are acknowledged with a grape, sake bottle or cocktail glass icon, respectively. In 2005, Michelin published its first American guide, reporting on 500 restaurants in the five boroughs of New York City and 50 Manhattan hotels.

The Guide has expanded through Europe, Asia and North America. Except for the Spain and Portugal version, which is in Spanish only, it is written in the language of the country for which it is published.

The symbols are the same for all editions. After striking a deal with Destination Vancouver, the Vancouver Michelin Guide finally made it to Vancouver last year.

After much fanfare and speculation, the Guide gave out eight one-star rankings and twelve Bib Gourmands in Fall 2022. Here’s the list:

Sponsored Ads


Anh and Chi

3388 Main St., Vancouver


322 W. Hastings St., Vancouver

Fable Kitchen

1944 W. 4th Ave., Vancouver

Fiorino, Italian Street Food

212 E. Georgia St., Vancouver

Kin Kao Song

317 E. Broadway, Vancouver

Little Bird Dim Sum + Craft Beer

2958 W. 4th Ave., Vancouver

Lunch Lady

1046 Commercial Dr., Vancouver


1079 Mainland St., Vancouver

Oca Pastificio

1260 Commercial Dr., Vancouver

Phnom Penh

244 E. Georgia St., Vancouver

Say Mercy!

4298 Fraser St., Vancouver


3106 Cambie St., Vancouver


(contemporary cuisine)

1809 W. 1st Ave., Vancouver

(contemporary cuisine)

305 E. Pender St., Vancouver

Burdock & Co
(contemporary cuisine)

2702 Main St., Vancouver

iDen & QuanJuDe Beijing Duck House

(Chinese cuisine)

2808 Cambie St., Vancouver

Kissa Tanto
(Japanese cuisine)

263 E. Pender St., Vancouver

(Japanese cuisine)

4376 Fraser St., Vancouver

Published on Main
(contemporary cuisine)

3593 Main St., Vancouver

St. Lawrence
(French cuisine)

269 Powell St., Vancouver

Related Articles