Two weeks ago the first edition of the Michelin Guide San Francisco was released. Jean Luc Naret, Director of the Michelin Guide tells us that only one restaurant got the coveted three star rating -- The French Laundry in Napa.
In 1900, André Michelin published the first edition of a guide to France to help drivers maintain their cars, find decent lodging, and eat well while touring. It included addresses of gasoline distributors, garages, tire stockists, public toilets, etc. There were only 3000 cars in France at this time.
The guide was distributed free until 1920. According to a story told by the Michelin brothers, the charge was introduced after a pile of guides was found propping up a workbench in a garage, showing that a free gift would not be taken seriously. In 1926, the guide introduced the star to note good cooking; two and three stars were added in the early 1930s.
As motoring became more widespread and democratic, the star system was developed and guides to other countries introduced. Today a series of twelve guides lists more than 45,000 hotels and restaurants across Europe, and the guide to France has sold 30 million copies since it was introduced.
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