The Time The Michelin Guide Broke Gordon Ramsay

A Michelin Guide star can make or break a chef's career — or the restaurant they work in. Chefs with high aspirations push themselves to earn Michelin stars, and they are the yardstick by which they measure their success.

The guide as we know it today started in the 1920s as a way for motorists to find restaurants or other necessities while on the road. Restaurants were judged on a scale of one to three stars, one being "very good in its category," and three being "worth a special journey" (per Institute of Culinary Education).

The process of awarding Michelin stars is an open secret. Inspectors are anonymous; chefs don't know when they're hosting a Michelin inspector. They dine at a restaurant every 18 or so months and look for things like consistency, quality, and creativity every time they dine in (per Truly Experiences). One anonymous inspector was quoted in The Telegraph as saying, "... it's about the food — the cooking, flavor, texture, technique. It doesn't have to be complicated, just good and good value for money, in clean surroundings." Losing Michelin stars is not unheard of, but it still stings when it happens. Restaurants can lose stars for inconsistency between visits or poor quality ingredients, amongst other reasons.

Gordon Ramsay, the sailor-mouthed celebrity chef and restaurateur, currently has seven Michelin stars across his restaurants. But there was one time the Michelin Guide reduced him to tears.

Consistency is key for Michelin inspectors

In 2014, Gordon Ramsay lost the two stars from his New York City restaurant, The London. He cried, saying it was like breaking up with a girlfriend. He was very emotional at hearing the news, saying, "I started crying when I lost my stars. It's a very emotional thing for any chef" (per CheatSheet).

When asked why Ramsay's restaurant lost its stars, Michael Ellis, the Michelin Guide director, cited the food as "erratic." When he dined there and wasn't sure what was going on in the kitchen, he commented that The London "had issues with consistency, and consistency is a huge thing for us." Inspectors do know that their ratings have a tremendous effect on chefs and their restaurants, which is why they make return visits, especially when a restaurant has been flagged for demotion. Consistency is a hallmark of any good restaurant, so it's why Michelin inspectors and diners alike go back.

Luckily for Ramsay, his London-based restaurant has retained its three-star rating since 2001, so things aren't so bad for him.