10 Facts About Michelin: From Tires to Culinary Triumphs

Clermont-Ferrand, France. Figures of Bibendum, also known as Michelin Tyre Man, at the L'Aventure Michelin museum
Clermont-Ferrand, France. Figures of Bibendum, also known as Michelin Tyre Man, at the L’Aventure Michelin museum
Photo by depositphotos.com

When one thinks of Michelin, images of rugged tires might first come to mind. Yet, this iconic brand boasts a fascinating history, intricately linked with the world of haute cuisine. How did a tire manufacturer evolve to become the highest authority in the culinary universe? Here are ten facts that provide a glimpse into the remarkable journey of Michelin.

1. Guarded Secrets: Michelin is so protective of its tire technology that it refrains from patenting the rubber compounds it employs. This ensures that competitors remain in the dark about their secret formulas.

2. A Starry Origin: In a clever marketing ploy in 1900, Michelin began reviewing restaurants, intending to encourage people to drive more, subsequently wearing out their tires faster. The coveted Michelin Star, which global chefs ardently aspire to, is actually an ingenious advertising strategy by the tire giant.

3. Mysterious Inspectors: Michelin goes to great lengths to preserve the anonymity of its inspectors, who are responsible for bestowing stars upon restaurants. Being an inspector demands a commitment to 275 inspection meals annually. The veil of secrecy is so profound that many top chefs have never encountered one, and inspectors are advised against revealing their profession, even to their parents.

4. Ramsay’s Starry Achievements: Holding a Michelin star is prestigious but maintaining it is a continuous challenge. Michelin demands consistent excellence, and should standards drop, restaurants risk losing their stars. In 2014, Gordon Ramsay compared losing his Michelin stars to the agony of a romantic breakup. Among Michelin-starred chefs, Ramsay shines with 16 stars, surpassed by only two chefs globally.

5. Street Food Excellence: Testament to its culinary richness, some of Singapore’s street vendors have been recognized with Michelin stars, underscoring that exceptional food isn’t confined to plush restaurants.

6. Michelin and the Law: Chef Marc Veyrat, in a historic lawsuit in 2019, contested Michelin’s decision to downgrade his restaurant to 2 stars, causing him considerable distress. His defense, humorously dubbed “cheddargate,” countered Michelin’s allegation of using English cheddar in a soufflé.

7. A Taste Resurrected: A chef, having lost his taste due to cancer treatment, eventually regained it. This health journey led him to create unique flavors that earned his Chicago restaurant three Michelin stars.

8. The True Colors of the Michelin Man: Originally, the iconic Michelin Man was white, reflecting the natural hue of rubber. It was only in 1912 that tires began to turn black, thanks to the addition of carbon chemicals, enhancing their strength and durability.

9. Michelin’s Role in WWII: During the Second World War, Michelin paused the publication of its guide. Yet, in 1944, at the behest of the Allied Forces, the 1939 edition covering France was republished, as its maps were deemed the best available.

10. Budget-friendly Michelin Experience: The world’s most affordable Michelin-starred eatery is “HK Soya Sauce Chicken, Rice & Noodle” in Singapore. Patrons can enjoy a delectable meal for a mere $1.50 (USD), making it the first street food stand to earn such a distinction.

From shaping travel journeys with resilient tires to illuminating culinary paths with its esteemed stars, Michelin’s legacy is as multifaceted as it is interesting.

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