If you want to become a great chef, you have to work with great chefs. And that's exactly what I did.

~ Gordon Ramsay ~

Thanks to TV shows like MasterChef Australia, just about everyone can list a number of famous and popular celebrity chefs — Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Kylie Kwong, Alain Ducasse, Peter Gilmore, Nigella Lawson ...

You might even have your personal favourite, perhaps based on their creativity (Heston Blumenthal), their personality (Poh Ling Yeow) or because you love their cooking books and food (Adam Liaw).

Then there are the official culinary greats — the chefs who other chefs and home cooks aspire to be like; whose restaurants we long to experience (if we could ever get a reservation) — the Michelin Star chefs.

Who are they? How do they get a Michelin Star? Are there any Australian chefs who are Michelin starred?

Keep reading to find out more.

How do you get a Michelin star?
These days, great food and the dining experience is as much about the theatrics as the taste | Source: Pixabay - Guillermo Muro
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What is a Michelin Star?

Here's a fun fact you may not know — Michelin is actually a French tyre company. What do tyres have to do with chefs, food, cooking, cuisine and restaurants? The Michelin Guide was originally published in 1900 as a list of mechanics, restaurants and hotels as a way to help drivers during their travels.

In 1926, the focus of the Michelin Guide turned to restaurants and the upper-class hotel. The star system was introduced over the next seven years with any restaurant able to earn up to three Michelin stars as follows:

  • one star — very good restaurant
  • two stars — excellent cooking (worth a detour)
  • three stars — exceptional cuisine (worth a special journey).

Unlike most other star rating systems, Michelin Stars (or Michelin Star chefs) are not voted on by restaurant customers and are not about being a popular or famous chef. A team of 'secret diners', known as Michelin Inspectors, visit restaurants and assess their dining experience. While the exact criteria are unknown, Michelin is all about the food — ingredients, cooking techniques and taste — rather than the decor of the restaurant itself. Stars can be awarded or removed — with both announcements serving to elevate the career of the chefs involved. Gordon Ramsay, for example, is better known for having lost a Michelin star than being awarded seven.

Top Eight Michelin Star Chefs

Referred to by some food critics as 'the Oscars of the culinary world', Michelin Star Chefs have, without a doubt, the most prestige in the culinary world, so these stars are highly sought after.

How do you get an Oscar?
A Michelin star does the same thing for the career of a chef as an Oscar does for an actor's career | Source: Pixabay - Gia Knight

There are a number of chefs who have been awarded Michelin stars not just once, but multiple times. How many do you know from this list of living Michelin star recipients?

# 1 — 19 Michelin Stars

The king of French cuisine, Alain Ducasse, currently holds 17 Michelin Stars. He's owned 36 restaurants throughout his career and is also famous for being the only chef to have sent his food into space.

# 2 — 14 Michelin Stars

Also a French chef, Pierre Gagnaire was awarded the first of his stars at the age of 26.

# 3 — 12 Stars

Martin Berasategui has more stars than any other Spanish chef. He was awarded his first star at the age of 25, in his first restaurant (which has also been on the Top 50 Best Restaurants list for 6 years).

# 4 — 10 Stars

Another French chef, Yannick Alleno owns 18 restaurants across the world, with one of them being the oldest restaurant in Paris.

# 5 — 8 Michelin Stars

French chef, Anne-Sophie Pic, has 5 restaurants — each of which have been awarded stars. Interestingly, Pic has no formal culinary training, having taken over the family restaurant in 1997 after her father's death.

# 6 — 7 Stars

This position is shared by five chefs — one from the UK (Gordon Ramsay), one from the US (Thomas Keller) two from Japan (Yoshihiro Murata and Seiji Yamamoto) and one from Switzerland (Andreas Caminada).

# 7 — 6 Michelin Stars

British chef and culinary scientist, Heston Blumenthal shares the seventh position on the list with another Japanese chef, Masahiro Yoshitake (whose 6 stars come from just two restaurants).

What is Heston Blumenthal known for?
Heston Blumenthal introduced MasterChef contestants to the now popular concept of using liquid nitrogen to make instant ice cream | Source: Pixabay - silviarita

# 8 — 5 Michelin Stars

Four chefs have each been awarded 5 Michelin Stars — Heinz Beck (Italy), Jordi Cruz, Paco Perez and Quique Dacosta (all from Spain).

Out of these top ranked chefs, several have also achieved celebrity status owing to their TV appearances — Gordon Ramsay (arguably the most famous, and most controversial, celebrity chef in the world) and Heston Blumenthal (lauded for his culinary genius at blending scientific experimentation with food that wows all the senses).

Special Mentions

'Chef of the Century', Joël Robuchon, passed away in 2018 with 28 Michelin Stars to his name. In his career, this French chef (who was the famous hot-tempered mentor of equally hot-tempered Gordon Ramsay), was awarded no less than 31 stars.

Why don't Australian chefs have Michelin Stars?

Yes, you read that correctly — there are no Australian chefs or restaurants that have Michelin Stars but this has nothing to do with the skill level of our chefs, the calibre of Australian restaurants or the quality of our cooking. The reason is simple — the Michelin Guide only covers Europe, America and Asia.

Australia does, however, have a ranking system that is close to the Michelin Guide — the Australian Good Food Guide Chef Hat Awards. Under this system, using similar criteria, a restaurant is allocated points, then awarded 'Chef Hats'. These hats correspond to the Michelin system as follows:

  • 12-13 points = a good restaurant
  • 14-15 points = one hat, worth a stop (one star)
  • 16-17 points = two hats, worth a detour (two stars)
  • 18-19 points = three hats, worth a special trip (three stars)

There are a number of chefs with hatted restaurants in Australia who also have starred restaurants in other countries, including Tetsuya Wakuda (two-hatted Tetsuya's and two starred Waku Ghin in Singapore).

Any list of popular chefs is going to be highly subjective. A quick internet search of popular chefs in Australia brings up a host of different lists, some of which are clearly influenced by media promotion, including TV shows such as MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules, or by state.

There are, however, some names that appear on every list so we've decided to compile our own Top Ten list according to repeated list appearances (plus a little personal bias). In no particular order, here's our pick of the top ten chefs in Australia:

  • Peter Gilmore — owner of Sydney restaurants, Bennelong and Quay and master of contemporary Australian cuisine
  • Adriano Zumbo — the king of dessert
  • Kylie Kwong — owner of Billy Kwong in Sydney where traditional Chinese cooking meets Australian native ingredients
  • Adam Liaw — author of 5 cook books, host of Destination Flavour and winner of season two of MasterChef
  • Neil Perry — owns restaurants in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and designs the in-flight menu for Qantas
  • Stephanie Alexander — owner of many restaurants over the years but best known for her Kitchen Garden school education program
  • Luke Nguyen — responsible for some amazing Vietnamese cuisine but more popular as a food-daredevil TV host
  • Matt Moran — lauded by many in the industry as a culinary genius, Matt Moran champions local, seasonal produce
  • Maggie Beer — possibly the most loved cook in Australia, Maggie Beer is known for her fine dining gourmet food range
  • Curtis Stone — Michelin starred in the US for his restaurant, Maude, Curtis Stone is best known for his Australian-style meat dishes.

A Few Cooking Tips and Tricks from the Best

Most chefs have their own culinary secrets or cooking tips and tricks they keep up their sleeves — secret recipes, secret ingredients, specialised (secret) techniques. In the pre celebrity chef days, these secrets stayed with the chefs but with the huge influx of chefs who have their own TV shows, their secrets are being shared with the general public.

How can I add flavour to dishes?
Don't throw away the rind of your parmesan cheese, use it to flavour soups and stews | Source: Pixabay - lcb

Get yourself into the kitchen and elevate your dishes with these cooking tips and tricks from some of our favourite chefs:

Parmesan rind

Popular London based chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, reminds us not to throw away the rind of our parmesan cheese. Instead, throw it in your soup, risotto or stew to give these dishes an umami flavour boost.

Season your meat dishes

Curtis Stone's meat recipes are legendary and he offers this simple tip — sprinkle salt and pepper over your meat from a height, before and during cooking. Use more than you think you need to.

Best dressed salad dishes

Most people mix up their salad dressing ingredients then tip the dressing over the salad. Damien Pignolet says to reverse this by making the dressing in your salad bowl, with minimal oil, then putting the salad over the top.

Food is life, life is food. If you don’t like my approach you are welcome to go down to McDonalds.

~ Keith Floyd ~

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Kellie

Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.