If you’re a foodie, you’ve probably heard of Michelin Stars or even dined at a Michelin Star restaurant before. But what exactly is it, and how is a chef or restaurant awarded this highly coveted recognition?
We explain Michelin stars and several Malaysian Michelin star chefs who are making waves in the food industry.
The Michelin star has an interesting background story. It began with Edouard and Andre Michelin, founders of the Michelin tire company. The French brothers wanted to provide helpful information for travellers and, thus, birthed the Michelin guide.
Initially, the Michelin guide was free and included information such as where the closest petrol station was or where one could go to change tires. It also had extremely useful roadmaps.
The Michelin guide soon gained popularity, and the Michelin brothers, realising its value, launched a new priced version in 1920. The new guide listed famous restaurants and popular hotels in Paris.
The guide evolved to include a single star for fine dining restaurants in the mid-1920s. The single stars then became the three-star ranking system still being used today.
The Bib Gourmand feature was introduced in 1955. Restaurants with the Bib Gourmand award are recognised for their high-quality, value-for-money food. This added feature was excellent for travellers who were on a budget but still wanted to enjoy good food.
Today, Michelin stars are given to restaurants that serve exceptional food. As a chef or restaurant owner, a Michelin star signifies that you’ve made it in the culinary world. With this recognition, customers will likely make reservations at your restaurant to try the delicious cuisine.
Michelin stars are awarded based on a three-star ranking. They are given based on the experience of Michelin inspectors rather than customer reviews.
According to the Michelin guide, one-star restaurants are excellent in their category. Cooking is high quality, and they’re worth a stop. Although only one star, it is still an accolade that signifies cooking talent and delicious food.
Restaurants with two Michelin stars have excellent cooking and are worth a detour, as stated in the Michelin guide. Two-star restaurants are rarer than one-star restaurants. They offer high-quality food and are even owned by well-known chefs. Therefore, these restaurants are likely to have a long reservation list.
If a restaurant has three Michelin stars, they have ‘exceptional cuisine and worth a special journey!’ However, only the best restaurants are awarded 3 stars, and there are currently only 142 restaurants in the world with this ranking.
Often, world-renowned chefs run three-star Michelin restaurants. They offer once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences, so don’t miss dining there if you have a chance!
Michelin inspectors are passionate culinary experts who decide whether your restaurant is worth a Michelin star. They are like private detectives who visit a particular restaurant without drawing attention to themselves.
Michelin inspectors adhere to these rating criteria when reviewing a restaurant:
These criteria cover the entire dining experience, thus, you’ll want to ensure top-notch customer service to please these undercover inspectors.
It must be noted that Michelin stars are awarded to restaurants rather than chefs. Thus, a chef who runs multiple Michelin star restaurants can have more than three stars. Having said this, one reason for the Michelin award is the chef’s hard work, dedication, and leadership.
As such, they are often referred to as Michelin star chefs.
Besides this, an establishment can also lose its stars if Michelin inspectors deem that standards have fallen. Nonetheless, stars can be won again, although this can be tough.
Here are Malaysia’s 2023 Michelin star chefs:
Darren Chin graduated from UOW Malaysia KDU (back then, KDU) in 1999 and continued his culinary studies at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris.
Upon returning to Malaysia in 2013, Darren started building his reputation as one of the best Western cuisine chefs in Malaysia. He is known for integrating Asian and European ingredients with classic French techniques.
DC by Darren Chin was one of the four restaurants in Malaysia awarded one star at the inaugural Michelin Guide Kuala Lumpur and Penang 2023.
Su Kim Hock, the chef proprietor of Au Jardin in Penang, is also a UOW Malaysia KDU alumni. Au Jardin, which opened its doors in 2018, is located at Hin Bus Depot.
The restaurant offers French cooking with hints of local flavours and is known for its monthly changing menu.
Besides DC by Darren and Au Jardin, the two other restaurants that were presented one star by the Michelin Guide Kuala Lumpur and Penang 2023 are:
Dewakan (Kuala Lumpur) is an establishment known for its Malaysian cuisine. Seasonal fruits, herbs and indigenous produce are widely used here. So, if you’re a fan of fermented foods, this is a restaurant you’ll want to try.
Auntie Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery in Penang offers Peranakan cuisine. Dishes are made with the highest quality produce. You’ll want to try the pai tee and gulai tumis here.
In addition, a total of 32 eateries were recognised with the Bib Gourmand. Of these, 17 were in Penang, and the rest were in KL.
The first step to becoming a Michelin star chef is to actually become a chef. You can do this by enrolling in culinary school or joining a kitchen to learn the basics and work your way up. Some people even start by being kitchen assistants and washing dishes.
However, the journey doesn’t end just by becoming a chef. Michelin star chefs are passionate about what they do. They are creative, experts in blending flavours and plating, and consistent in their work.
Michelin inspectors also look for kitchen cleanliness, ingredient quality, and freshness. Thus, you’ll also want to ensure that you cover these areas.
Lastly, your restaurant has to be in a Michelin-covered area. While Michelin stars are an amazing achievement, let your food speak for itself – be consistent in cooking world-class food, and sooner or later, you will be recognised for it.
If you dream of becoming a Michelin star chef, start your journey with UOW Malaysia KDU’s Diploma in Culinary Arts or Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in International Culinary Arts.
The journey to a Michelin star is not going to be easy. After all, you’ll be competing with top chefs and restaurants. However, nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. If you love messing about in the kitchen, perhaps a Michelin star is in your stars.
However, you’ll have to take the first step and start your culinary career – enrol in culinary school today.
Read ‘Culinary arts: What is it all about?’ For more on what you’ll be doing at culinary school.