Michelin stars are the most prestigious awards in the culinary world, with just over 100 restaurants worldwide holding the maximum 3 stars. Earning even one star is an incredible achievement that denotes a restaurant with exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey. But to earn the full 3 stars is to join the very highest echelon of gastronomy.
So which restaurants and chefs have managed to achieve the incredible feat of being awarded 3 Michelin stars? Here we will look at the current holders of the coveted triple star rating and analyze the global distribution.
What do Michelin stars mean?
First, a quick overview of what Michelin stars represent. Michelin stars are awarded by the French tire company and travel guide publisher Michelin in their annual Red Guide publications which cover over 30,000 restaurants and hotels around the world.
Restaurants can be awarded between 1 and 3 stars based on the quality of their food:
- 1 star – A very good restaurant in its category
- 2 stars – Excellent cuisine, worth a detour
- 3 stars – Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey
Michelin stars are notoriously difficult to earn, with only around 1-3% of reviewed restaurants receiving even a single star. The 3 star designation is the pinnacle representing the very best dining experiences globally. Chefs work their entire careers to try and earn those three stars.
How many 3 Michelin star restaurants are there in the world?
Currently, there are only 137 restaurants worldwide that hold the coveted 3 Michelin star rating. This select group represents the pinnacle of fine dining internationally. Some key stats on 3 Michelin star restaurants:
- France has the most with 30 in total
- Japan is second with 26
- The United States has 14
- Germany has 11
- Spain has 10
The full breakdown of 3 Michelin star restaurants by country is:
|Country||# of 3 Star Restaurants|
As you can see, France leads the world with 30 restaurants holding 3 Michelin stars, far ahead of any other country. The French culinary tradition is longstanding and revered globally, so it is no surprise restaurants in France dominate the 3 star metric.
Who are some chefs with the most Michelin stars?
In addition to restaurants, individual chefs can also earn Michelin stars. Here are some standout chefs who have accrued incredible numbers of Michelin stars over their careers:
With a total of 20 Michelin stars over his illustrious career, French chef Alain Ducasse holds the record for most Michelin stars for any chef in history. He currently operates a number of restaurants globally including in France, United Kingdom, United States, and Hong Kong.
Spanish chef Martin Berasategui holds 8 Michelin stars spread across 7 restaurants in Spain. His self-named restaurant in Lasarte-Oria, Spain has held 3 Michelin stars since 2001.
Japanese chef Yoshihiro Murata operates several 3 star restaurants including Kikunoi in Kyoto. In total he holds 7 Michelin stars across Japan.
British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay holds 7 total Michelin stars. His UK restaurants including Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester have held 3 stars for many years running.
The influential French chef Pierre Gagnaire has collected 6 Michelin stars throughout his career. His self-named flagship restaurant in Paris held 3 stars for over a decade.
While Michelin stars are awarded to specific restaurant locations, these chefs have demonstrated the ability to consistently operate multiple world-class restaurants at the 3 Michelin star level, cementing their status as giants of the industry.
Notable 3 Michelin star restaurants by country
Beyond just the total numbers, it’s worth highlighting some of the most famous and revered 3 star establishments in major culinary destinations.
Home to more 3 star restaurants than anywhere else globally, France unsurprisingly is home to many of the world’s best known luxury dining rooms. Standouts include:
- Restaurant Guy Savoy, Paris – Led by chef Guy Savoy, this elegant restaurant overlooking the Seine has held 3 stars continuously since 2002.
- L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, Lyon – The oldest 3 star restaurant in France, open since 1930 under the influential chef Paul Bocuse.
- Le Bernardin, Paris – temple of French seafood led by Eric Ripert located in Paris.
- Lameloise, Chagny – a Burgundian institution located in a Napoleon-era manor house.
The US’s fine dining scene has exploded in recent decades. Some of the country’s best known 3 star spots include:
- French Laundry, Yountville CA – Thomas Keller’s iconic Napa Valley restaurant that helped put US dining on the global stage.
- Per Se, New York City – Keller’s contemporary, more urban restaurant located in Manhattan.
- Eleven Madison Park, New York City – contemporary American fare in a beautiful art deco setting.
- Benu, San Francisco – intricate Asian-influenced tasting menus from chef Corey Lee.
- SingleThread, Healdsburg CA – intimate California cuisine with nearby inn for the full wine country experience.
From traditional sushi houses to modern tasting counters, Japan is home to an astounding 26 restaurants with 3 Michelin stars including:
- Sukiyabashi Jiro, Tokyo – tiny world-famous sushi bar made globally famous by the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
- Kanda, Tokyo – elegant Japanese tasting menus from chef Kanda overlooking the city.
- Quintessence, Tokyo – avant-garde and intimate 20-seat restaurant led by chef Shuzo Kishida.
- Sushi Saito, Tokyo – joel Robuchon called chef Takashi Saito’s sushi “a true art form.”
This is just a small sampling of some of the most acclaimed 3 star establishments in France, the US, and Japan. Every one of the 137 global restaurants holding 3 Michelin stars represents the pinnacle of its country and region’s cuisine.
Recent 3 Michelin star trends
The most elite group of restaurants is not static, as new restaurants earn 3 stars each year while others drop in the ratings or close. Some trends in the most recent Michelin guides include:
- More restaurants in Asia earning stars – especially China, Japan, and Thailand
- New awards in Slovenia, Taiwan, and other emerging dining scenes
- Sustainable practices playing a greater role in star ratings
- Younger chefs receiving stars earlier in their careers
While the number of new 3 star restaurants each year is small, Michelin continues to evolve with dining trends and recognize new talent and techniques globally.
Controversies around Michelin stars
For all their prestige, Michelin stars have not been without some controversies over the years. Some debates around the rating system include:
- Lack of stars for more casual dining – Michelin has historically focused exclusively on fine dining.
- Bias towards French or European cuisine styles
- Questions over the consistency of criteria between reviewers
- Accusations that stars can be driven by connections not just merit from some chefs
- Concerns that chasing stars leads to uncreative “cooking by numbers.”
While Michelin takes efforts to address critiques, concerns remain about the transparency and consistency of the rating process. However, most chefs see Michelin stars as the pinnacle accolade worth pursuing.
Cost of 3 Michelin star dining
Relatedly, the cost of dining at 3 star restaurants makes them inaccessible to many. A meal with wine pairings routinely runs $500-1000 per person. While undeniably special occasions, this limits the ability of most diners to experience the best cuisine as recognized by Michelin.
The 137 restaurants worldwide holding the prestigious 3 Michelin star rating represent the pinnacle of global fine dining. France leads the world with 30 such restaurants, but Japan, the US, and other countries also boast an impressive roster of 3 star establishments.
Earning just one Michelin star takes incredible skill and effort from a chef and restaurant. To earn 3 requires achieving phenomenal cuisine with flawless service year after year. While Michelin’s methods are not without debate, its starred rankings are still considered the gold standard in the restaurant world.
For food lovers aspiring to experience the absolute best dining globally, the complete list of all 3 Michelin star restaurants provides the ultimate bucket list. Even just trying a handful of these restaurants would allow one to sample astonishing cuisine at the peaks of perfection.