For many chefs and restaurateurs, three Michelin stars is considered the highest accolade in the world of fine dining, held by only the best of the best. Developed in the 1920s and 30s by French tyre manufacturers Michelin as a way of advising motorists the best places to pull over for a bite to eat, the Michelin star rating system has since evolved into one of the most sought-after awards in the restaurant business, with an army of secret inspectors reviewing top restaurants the world over.
Stars are awarded to restaurants rather than chefs, meaning that chefs with several high-quality restaurants may hold any number of stars, the current record-holder being Monegasque chef Alain Ducasse, with an impressive twenty stars in total, including several three star establishments. Three stars is the highest award achievable for an individual restaurant, and any chef who runs a three-star kitchen is considered to be part of a small, elite group, made up of masters of their craft. There are only 137 restaurants worldwide that currently hold the award, and if you’re thinking of visiting some of them, here is a list of every three Michelin starred restaurant in the USA.
Top chefs around the world strive for the coveted three star award, and new chefs are joining the select number of three Michelin starred chefs every year. The industry has traditionally been dominated by men, but in recent years several female chefs have made it to the top, and there are currently five female chefs with three Michelin stars.
There are always plenty of young chefs creating dishes to an exceptional standard, but the youngest chef ever to achieve three Michelin stars was Italian chef Massimiliano (Max) Alajmo, who, at just 28, was head chef of his family’s restaurant Le Calandre, in Rubano, Padua, when it was awarded its third Michelin star.
Sometimes referred to as ‘l Mozart dei fornelli’, or ‘The Mozart of the stoves,’ Alajmo was born into a family of restaurateurs and chefs, and grew up in the kitchen of Le Calandre, helping his mother, previous chef patron Rita Chimetto. He went on to attend cooking school at the Istituto Alberghiero di Abano Terme and took internships with several top Italian and French chefs, including Alfredo Chiocchetti, Marc Veyrat and Michel Guérard. In 1994, his parents Erminio Alajmo and Rita Chimetto handed Le Calandre over to Massimilliano, who took over in the kitchen, and his brother Rafaelle, who handled the management side of things. The restaurant had already been awarded one Michelin star in 1992, and in 1996 a second star followed, making Max, at just 22 years old, the youngest chef to be awarded two Michelin stars. He went on to be the youngest three-starred Michelin chef in 2002, at the age of 28, and Le Calandre has retained its three-star status ever since.
Today, Max oversees the kitchens in all of the Alajmo family’s establishments, which include two one-starred restaurants - Montecchia, also in Padua, and Quadri, which is located in St Mark’s Square, Venice - and several bistros and cafes, including a pop-up restaurant in the Venetian lagoon, where you can pick up takeaway in your boat. His flagship restaurant remains Le Calandre, which has been referred to as ‘one of Italy's most cutting-edge restaurants’, and has featured in over 10 editions of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Here, he dreams up iconic dishes such as the legendary Tiramisu in a Pipe, and his latest creation, Cappuccino Murrina, which contains layers of flavours in colours inspired by Venetian glasswork.
Marco Pierre White was the youngest 3 Michelin star chef.
Between 1994 and 2002, the world’s youngest 3 Michelin star chef was British chef, restaurateur and ‘enfant terrible,’ Marco Pierre White. Known for his world-class cuisine and unpredictable temper, White’s work ethic was instilled in him from an early age, when his father Frank, also a chef, made him get a milk round before school. Leaving school with no qualifications, White followed his father into the kitchen, landing a job as a kitchen apprentice at the Hotel St George in Harrogate,and later moving to one-Michelin-starred The Box Tree.
His big break came in 1981, when, aged just nineteen, the young White moved to London, with ‘£7.36, a box of books and a bag of clothes’ and began training as a Commis chef under French maestros Michel and Albert Roux at Le Gavroche. He then went on to work for other famous names, including Pierre Koffman, Raymond Blanc and Nico Ladenis, before opening his own restaurant, Harveys, in 1987. Harveys was an instant success, receiving one Michelin star in its opening year, and a second the year later.
In the years that followed, White became chef-patron of The Restaurant Marco Pierre White in the dining room of the former Hyde Park Hotel, where, in 1994, he was awarded a third Michelin star. Aged just 32, this made White the youngest three Michelin star chef at the time, and he was also the first British chef ever to be awarded three Michelin stars. But five years after his achievement, White surprised everyone by handing his Michelin stars back. He later explained that maintaining three-Michelin-star status lacked the excitement of working towards the achievement. The focus had shifted from innovation and risk-taking to painstaking consistency, and White, bored, and feeling that his work was being judged by people with less knowledge than himself, left the kitchen to spend more time with his family.
Since then, he has become a regular face on TV shows like Hell's Kitchen, The Great British Menu, and Australian Master Chef, and he also owns over forty restaurants and brasseries across the UK. Often referred to as ‘The Godfather of British cooking’, White’s advice is much sought-after by younger chefs, and he was due to give a talk at the 2020 Skills for Chefs conference, which has now been postponed until 2021. He has also written several cookbooks, including the ‘ground-breaking’ White Heat, described as part biography and part cookbook, which was recently reprinted as a special 25th anniversary edition.