How Restaurants Get Michelin Stars

Earning a star is all about consistency, flavor and care.

WASHINGTON — Washington, DC is now home to four more Michelin-starred restaurants: Imperfecto, Reverie, Albi and Oyster Oyster are now honored with what is considered one of the world’s greatest culinary accolades.

That’s 23 Michelin-starred restaurants in the district — plus one in Washington, Virginia.

It turns out winning the coveted prize is a game of consistency, flavor, and care.

RELATED: 4 DC Restaurants Awarded Michelin Stars

THE QUESTION:

What does it take to earn a Michelin star?

OUR SOURCES:

WHAT WE FOUND:

It was in 1889 in central France. The Michelin brothers wanted to promote the sales of their tire company by getting people to hit the road. The Little Red Book, according to The Michelin Guide, started as a way to encourage drivers to hit the road, helping them navigate car maintenance and hotels and yes, restaurants.

In the 1920s the guide began awarding stars and established criteria for one, two, and three stars over the next decade.

A century after the awarding of the first star, this is a great culinary distinction.

“He’s a career builder. It’s a game-changer for us,” said Carey Tang, co-owner of Rooster & Owl, one of Washington, DC’s Michelin-starred restaurants. It obtained its star in 2021 and was retained in 2022.

“And it’s this ultimate recognition of the hard work our team puts in every day. And what an incredible honor.”

Michelin inspectors visit restaurants in California (San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles), Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

“We received the first star last year after closing for the pandemic, and with it all out of our control, we focused on the one thing we could control, which was cooking. So we focused on the kitchen and stayed there,” Carey said. “And getting that star again this year was the icing on the cake.”

RELATED: 5 DC Restaurants Awarded Michelin Stars For The First Time During Pandemic

Michelin inspectors are anonymous and independent.

“We know they come. We don’t know who they are. We don’t know when they come, but we know they come often,” Carey said. “And so you just provide the same experience as best you can for every guest, every guest could be that inspector. And hopefully we can do the right thing and stay true to what we want to do.”

RELATED: James Beard Awards Return in June, Multiple DC Area Semi-Finalists

The Michelin Guide outlines 5 criteria that inspectors are trained to look for:

1. Product quality
2. Mastery of flavors and cooking techniques
3. The personality of the chef represented in the dining experience
4. Harmony of flavors
5. Consistency between inspector visits

A panel of Michelin inspectors revealed that many of them have to visit a restaurant two or three times before determining if the restaurant is worthy of the honour.

“We taste every plate every night to make sure everything has that wow factor that inspectors and guests are looking for, and we try to maintain that as part of our operation,” said Carey’s husband, Yuan Tang, chef. Rooster & Owl and co “We’ve tried to use local produce and seasonal ingredients so we can showcase what’s here, as well as showcasing the best seasonal produce.”

Michelin usually means stars, but that doesn’t have to cost you the moon. The “Bib Gourmand” list is Michelin’s selection of the best restaurants with a lower price – around $40 for dinner in the United States. DC has 36 such restaurants, serving everything from Turkish cuisine and fried chicken to Creole and ramen.

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