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The Michelin Red Guide is an annual publication of the French tire manufacturer Michelin, and part of a series of guides for travellers (the Michelin Guides).

The Red Guide contains the most world's prestigious restaurant rating system. The first publication of the Guide was in 1900, but early editions focused mainly on lodgings, gas stations, repair shops and travel information.

Michelin sponsored a gastronomic column called Bibendum that appeared in several newspapers. From 1930 to 1941, this column was written by Maurice Edmond Sailland (1872-1956), better known as Curnonsky. Curnonsky was the unsurpassed authority as a restaurant critic. More than fifty Parisian restaurants had a table permanently set aside for him, and even today many restaurants honor his name. Mainly because of the popularity of Bibendum, the attention of the Michelin Red Guide shifted towards rating hotels and restaurants.

The three-star rating system of restaurants was introduced in 1931, but it wasn't until 1951 that the highest rating was awarded (three restaurants in Paris, and four in the rest of France). For decades there were only twenty-one restaurants with a three star rating, and it was believed that a chef could only reach this level by death or demotion of a higher ranked colleague. However, Michelin surprised the culinary world in 2000 by adding one more restaurant to its list of highest honors; the Grand Véfour in Paris with master chef Guy Martin.

The Michelin Rating system awards one to three stars (*) to a restaurant for the quality of the food, and one to five crossed knives and forks (X) to describe the level of luxury of the restaurant. Descriptions of the ranking are given in the following table:

*** Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey. Superb food, fine wines,
    faultless service, elegant surroundings. One will pay accordingly. 

**  Excellent cooking, worth a detour. Specialties and wines of first class
    quality. This will be reflected in the price.

*   A very good restaurant in its category. The star indicates a good place
    to stop on your journey. Beware of comparing the star given to an 
    expensive deluxe establishment to that of a simple restaurant where
    you can appreciate fine cuisine at a reasonable price. 

XXXXX Luxury in the traditional style 
XXXX  Top class comfort 
XXX   Very comfortable 
XX    Comfortable 
X     Acceptably comfortable 
Don't be fooled by the understated descriptions of the rating system. For a restaurant to even obtain one star is a very big deal, and its chef will be regarded as one of the best in the world. Two stars will turn a restaurant into a place of culinary worship, and a three star rating indicates a gastronomic wonder of the world. However, keep in mind that the rating is heavily biased towards the French Cuisine, and towards French restaurants in general; only a handful of restaurants outside of France receive three stars.

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