The 'Seemingly Impossible' Honor This Restaurant Just Received

Even those of us who aren't fans of fine dining know the significance of getting three stars from the Michelin Guide. Given to restaurants that are "worth a special journey," achieving a three star rating is as tough as it sounds — as of 2020, only 135 restaurants in the world have achieved such a distinction (via Fine Dining Lovers). That number could go up by at least one this year when noma, located in Copenhagen, Denmark, finally broke the two-star ceiling to get its third star for what the Michelin Guide said was its "creative and complex" use of seasonal ingredients and "strong connection to nature." 

The award is a big deal for noma, not just because it's three Michelin stars, but because it picked up and maintained its two stars for nearly as long as the restaurant has been around. As Eater notes, it even managed to survive the pandemic by temporarily transitioning to become a burger and wine bar — outdoor seating only. Typically, Noma's rotating menu spotlights seasonal produce and Nordic seafood prepared in ways most chefs couldn't dream up (via Eater).

The restaurant celebrated its long-awaited, hard-fought achievement with an Instagram post, where they acknowledged "The seemingly impossible has happened."

Not all chefs aspire to get a Michelin star

It's important to note that not every chef is thrilled by the thought of getting a Michelin star, let alone three. In fact, a number of chefs have been known to say thanks but no thanks to the venerable institution, even if "returning a star" is not really something one can formally do. "You can agree with it or you cannot, but you can't give it back," Michael Ellis, who oversees the awarding of Michelin stars, told Vanity Fair in 2015.

Fine dining sites are full of stories about how restaurants and their chefs face relentless pressure once they pick up a Michelin star, and some talk about how they've left the accolade behind as a result. "There is no doubt that receiving a Michelin star is the pinnacle of a number of restaurateurs' careers," British hospitality executive Ken McCulloch, who once won a Michelin star, told the BBC. "In my world I strive to make my hotels and restaurants a little bit better every day. That is my focus. A Michelin star can only help that but it should not be taken literally. It should be kept in perspective."

British food critic Andy Hayler agreed: "Michelin is not holding a gun to their heads demanding a certain style of dining ... The Michelin Guide is intended to help diners choose where to eat."