Michelin is expanding its restaurant and hotel guide series in North America to include Chicago. The Michelin guide Chicago 2011 is the first-ever Michelin...

Michelin is expanding its restaurant and hotel guide series in North America to include Chicago.

The Michelin guide Chicago 2011 is the first-ever Michelin guide for a Midwestern city and will be published in November 2010, according to Jean-Luc Naret, worldwide director of the Michelin guide.

Boasting a rating system that is internationally recognized as the height of culinary success, the Michelin guide is already published in 25 editions covering 23 countries, and additionally includes North America guides to New York City (introduced in November 2005) and San Francisco (launched in 2006). The Michelin guide has also recently launched city titles in Asia, including two guides in Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto & Osaka) and Hong Kong & Macao.

The Michelin guide to Chicago will provide a selection and rating, in all categories of comfort and prices, in a reader-friendly layout made especially for the American market and which reflects the region’s distinctive culinary and hotel landscape, the company says.

“The diversity, breadth and depth of Chicago’s restaurant and hotel scene, coupled with its rich gastronomic history, clearly mark the city and surrounding areas as the logical choice for the next North American title in the Michelin guide series,” says Naret. “As with our recently updated guides to New York City and San Francisco, we are making every effort to produce a comprehensive selection that does full justice to the region’s exciting restaurant and hotel culture and also meets our readers’ expectations.”

This is the official logo of Michelin, the famous French tire-maker and producer of travel guides to and maps of cities, countries and continents. The company's North American unit is headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina

Naret describes Chicago as unique among American cities, citing its reputation as a world-class tourism destination and stressing the importance of its culinary traditions.

As part of a meticulous and highly confidential evaluation process, European and American Michelin inspectors are conducting anonymous inspections of Chicago restaurants and hotels. They have already been in Chicago for two years, according to Michelin.

As with all Michelin-guide inspections, the inspection process involves test meals or overnight stays at each establishment, in order to assess the level and the consistency of the establishment. As with all other Michelin guides in all countries, the inspectors pay all their bills in restaurants and hotels.

“The Michelin inspectors are the eyes and ears of the customers, and thus the anonymity of our inspectors is key to ensure they are treated the same as any guest would be treated,” says Naret.

Restaurants and hotels selected for inclusion in the Michelin Chicago guide will be listed by neighborhood and also cross-referenced by category. The Michelin guide offers a broad selection of hotels and restaurants in each price and comfort category, taking into account the local environment. This rating is unique and consistent across all countries covered by the Michelin guide. It is expressed in two ways:

● A comfort rating: Levels of comfort are rated using one to five forks and spoons for restaurants and one to five pavilions for hotels. Those symbols only judge the comfort of the establishment. The comfort rating takes into account the furnishings of the establishment, the service, the cleanliness and upkeep of the surroundings. Red forks and spoons or red pavilions are for especially pleasant establishments; and

● Special distinctions for certain establishments: These include stars for the very best restaurants. The stars judge only what is served on the plate, meaning the quality of products, the mastering of flavors, the mastering of cooking, the ‘personality’ of the cuisine, the value for money and the consistency of what it offers to its customers both throughout the menu and the year.

While every restaurant in the guide is a recommendation from Michelin, the company says certain restaurants deserve to be brought to the reader’s attention for the fine quality of their cooking. These establishments are identified by Michelin stars, which are awarded for the standard of meals served.

A general listing in the guide indicates “a quality restaurant that stands out from others” in the same category of comfort and definitely worth trying, according to Michelin. The star ratings are as follows:

● One star indicates “a very good restaurant in its category,” a place offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard;

● Two stars denote “excellent cooking, worth a detour,” skillfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality; and

● Three stars reward “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” One always eats extremely well in three-star restaurants, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients.

A restaurant that receives one or more stars is not only one of the best in its country but also one of the best in the world, according to Michelin.

The decision to award a star is a collective one, based on the consensus of all inspectors who have visited a particular establishment. A written description of each establishment and a variety of other symbols give readers further insight into an establishment’s ambience, type of cuisine and specialties, and wine list, which in the case of the U.S. city guides is customized to American tastes and needs.