If not for tourism, exactly, Bibendum’s arrival in Toronto has certainly generated a lot of chatter. Here follows a short list of significant dates that marked the long road to its first Canadian stop.
1920: Twenty years after launching a motorists’ guide for the purpose of promoting its own tire sales, Michelin stops giving it away and starts charging.
1926: Following the lead of other popular travel guides Michelin adds (single) stars to some of the restaurants listed in the guides — and hires inspectors to help assign them.
1931: The stars evolve to ratings of un, deux ou trois macarons — but, in an early sign of the greater opacity to come, Michelin declines to explain what the ratings mean.
1936: Five years on, the hierarchy is defined: worth a stop, a detour — or a special journey.
1950s–1980s: Michelin expands its gaze across other key Western European tire markets, like Italy, Great Britain, and Ireland.
1999: In London, Marco Pierre White makes Michelin history with a perfect score — and then hands all his stars and red knives and forks back, saying he doesn’t want them. Other great chefs will follow.
2004: Another large bump in the road: this time, a memoir published by Michelin inspector Pascal Rémy, claiming that all of France has 5 inspectors, not 50, and that they go years without reassessing starred restaurants. He gets fired.
2006: Focusing on greener pastures and relatively untapped tire markets Michelin launches conspicuously magnanimous guides to New York and then Tokyo (2008). Expanding on the founding brothers’ idea of profiting from your own promotional materials, they expand through Asia (Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, etc.) and establish an average price for visiting cities that they would not ordinarily bother with at about $1 million per year.
2017: A delegation led by Toronto hobbyist-restaurateur William Cheng takes a version of this deal to Toronto mayor John Tory, who immediately grasps the potential of diverting millions of taxpayer dollars to a foreign-owned tire company with annual revenue of $32 billion.
2022: At the Toronto launch party, the mayor and tourism board representatives talk about world-class Toronto making a big new statement on the international culinary map. But the final math shows 14 stars for a city larger than Chicago, which has 29. LA has 39, San Francisco 58, NYC 86, London 94, and Paris 152. But we did — just — edge Warsaw (13).
And of course Vancouver, which six weeks after Toronto’s announcement learned that their millions had landed them just 8