What Exactly is a Michelin Star and Why Can’t Massachusetts Have Them?
Massachusetts is known for a lot of things. Its pivotal role in the country's history, some of the best colleges and universities in the world, spectacular landscapes from mountains to beaches, and in recent years the culinary scene has emerged as one of the best in the country.
Boston, Massachusetts has become a food mecca for chefs and diners alike. Local foodies and those visiting the area have a wide variety of culinary choices, from fresh seafood, to classic Italian, and Asian cuisine to Indian, even West African and Egyptian delicacies are all represented throughout the capital city.
Those who have experienced the greatness of the North End's Italian eateries or the world-class Korean cuisine in Allston know that Massachusetts' capital city has a culinary scene that rivals Los Angeles and New York, but do the professionals know that?
Foodies worldwide know that a Michelin star signifies the best of the best, but they also know that not a single restaurant in Boston, let alone the rest of Massachusetts, has none. What's the deal?
Let's start here.
What is a Michelin Star?
A Michelin star is essentially a badge of honor bestowed upon the best fine dining restaurants in the world, awarded by the Michelin Guide. Yes, the same Michelin company that makes your tires. Stay with me. Back in the 1900's the Paris-based company started a Michelin guide highlighting different destinations, encouraging folks to get out on the road and drive. The more often you drive, the more often you purchase tires, right?
Some of the destinations that appeared in the guide were world-class European restaurants, which began the company's reign as the foremost authority in fine dining cuisine. To this day a Michelin star, of which there can be up to three, is the gold standard of culinary technique and service.
In 2005 restaurants in the United States became eligible to receive the denotions for the first time, according to the Institute for Culinary Education.
Why Are There No Boston, Massachusetts Restaurants with Michelin Stars?
First, let's start with the fact that Michelin stars are EXTREMELY difficult to obtain. There are only 200 restaurants in the entire country that have Michelin stars and only THIRTEEN that have the coveted three-star rating. But that has nothing to do with why Boston doesn't have any.
The answer as to why there are no Michelin-starred restaurants anywhere in Massachusetts comes down to the all-mighty dollar. Yup, money.
The fact that there are no Michelin stars in Boston has nothing to do with the eateries themselves, it comes down to the fact that tourism boards pay the guide to review restaurants in their region, according to eater.com.
Tourism boards pay the tire company to launch the guide in their cities. California got a statewide guide starting a few years ago because Visit California paid Michelin $600,000 to expand their coverage zone outside of San Francisco. Florida got a statewide guide starting in 2022 because Visit Florida banded together with local tourism boards in Orlando, Tampa, and Miami and reportedly shelled out about $1.5 million to Michelin over three years to make it happen, according to the Miami Herald
So is Boston's tourist board MeetBoston willing to fork over the money to bring Michelin stars to Massachusetts? Simply put, no. In speaking with Eater, vice president of communications for MeetBoston, Dave O’Donnell, said he spoke with the guide last year and the tourism board is not interested in a "pay to play" situation.
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Gallery Credit: Paul Feinstein