Which Are The World's Most Prestigious Culinary Awards?

Which Are The World_s Most Prestigious Culinary Awards

What Are the Culinary Awards?

Fine dining occasions are a staple of both recreational activities and vacation packages. As ingrained as cooking or visiting a restaurant might be, it is also true that the culinary world tries to innovate itself regularly. This is one of the chief reasons why the various industry culinary awards can propel restaurants or chefs forward. The restaurant world gives out several kinds of these awards each year, and each one may place its own focus on a particular aspect of the restaurant business. All of these awards can lend an air of credibility to any dining establishment, and we’ll take you through some of the main points of each one in our post here today.


The Michelin Guide

The Michelin Guide

Michelin may be the awards system that most average diners have at least heard of in passing. The awards show the cuisine or service level a restaurant might offer. Through this process, different restaurants may win a certain number of stars. Similarly, the Michelin Guide does this through the use of an extensive system of symbols. While reviews do play a small role in hyping up a restaurant, the guide’s true influence comes from the symbols it has established over decades in the industry. To learn more about how the Michelin Star System works and the intricacies behind it, check out our article on Decoding the Prestigious Michelin Star System.

Any restaurant could receive zero stars from the Michelin Guide, but even one star out of three can put a place on the culinary map. If an establishment is fortunate enough to get at least a single star from Michelin, it means that its reviewers consider the place to have the cooking of quite high quality. A two-star award means that the place has excellent cooking that deserves a detour along the route you’ve planned already. Finally, any restaurant that manages to get three stars has a seal of exceptional skill or quality from Michelin. In Michelin’s estimation, this kind of diner is definitely worth a stop on your trip. If you’re ever tempted to go out of your way just to experience dining at its finest, these are the kinds of places you can journey to for no other reason.

Most people may know Michelin for its stars, but the full guide provides symbols and awards for other key areas of the recreational experience. For example, the guide also assesses the comfort and class of the restaurant as well. It does this through cutlery symbols rather than stars. On a related note, Michelin can award hotels or other accommodations with ratings that could increase their value to potential patrons. The guide can do this via one of five hotel symbols denoting levels of great distinction.

James Beard Awards

It seems that each industry gives out prestigious awards for good work. The film industry has its Oscars, and the restaurant business has its James Beard Awards. A star from Michelin is a focused representation of the quality of a restaurant’s food, but the James Beard Awards look for this factor in various top categories. The James Beard Foundation looks at different aspects of the entire industry, and it will make determinations based on how successfully different restaurants cater to these ideals.

Culinary skill, pillars within the hospitality sector, and media surrounding the food world are all things this awards system looks at before making a determination. Within each awards season, the candidates move from regular participants in the awards program to semifinal and final categories. In a broader sense, this program also looks at things like sustainability, equity, diversity among food cultures. It also looks at other things that can make the global industry more inclusive, pushing the standards higher in order to maintain excellence. This awards system isn’t just for chefs or restaurants, however. The James Beard Foundation takes a more encompassing approach to the food world, looking at things like food authors or critics as a way to broaden the scope of its endeavors.

Bib Gourmand Awards

The Bib Gourmand has its roots in the Michelin Guide system. It is a different but related category of awards. The company named it after the large, happy Michelin mascot that many people have seen on signs and advertisements for years. While Michelin admits that the Bib Gourmand is not on the same level as any star rating system, it is also not an award anyone should take lightly. The Bib Gourmand comes with its own prestige, and it is a special category that Michelin gives out to excellent restaurants serving more moderate food.

The stars may be for luxury establishments, but the Bib looks for good food at a price that many average food consumers are able to afford and enjoy. In most cases, the inspectors working for Michelin travel throughout the world looking for excellence in fine dining. While they go about their business, they keep their eyes open for any small restaurants that serve food at moderate prices. These inspectors still expect high-quality in ingredients, good tastes, and excellent service from the staff. However, they also recognize that everyday restaurants have slightly different standards that deserve a category of awards all their own.

Zagat Awards

Zagat is a bit different from the awards we’ve talked about so far. In fact, it is more of a survey than a ratings system by itself. It does include numbers it gives out for ratings, but its real influence is in the reviews it publishes. Each review goes into detail about what diners can expect from particular establishments. Additionally, Zagat predates the modern internet age, meaning that it is more of a physical guidebook published annually for consumers.

Zagat doesn’t carry quite the same weight as it once did, and readers may find that it can go through a few years between publishings these days. However, it is still an important source of information for anyone looking to get the most out of their dining experiences. Unlike other systems that use their own people for inspections, Zagat sources its reviews from crowds of average diners who have their own opinions about restaurants they try. The survey looks at key categories that include dining, decor, cost of the food, and the level of professional service provided.

The AA Hospitality Awards

These awards garner attendees in the food industry from across the globe. Most of the systems we’ve talked about already look at key categories of excellence in order to decide which places deserve spots in their annual lineups. While the AA Hospitality Awards certainly do this, one of their main focuses is on improvement. These awards look at what restaurants have done over the past year or so to improve certain areas of their food or services. The awards will look at how restaurants perform from a management perspective.

S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards

Each award here has its own style or criteria. However, some diners just want to know which restaurants the culinary world considers the cream of the crop in a more general sense. For this, you have the 50 Best Restaurants Awards. Taste can be a subjective thing, but the S. Pellegrino Awards process does its best to provide a complete and objective overview of some of the top places to eat throughout the globe.

The system does this by recruiting leaders throughout the entire industry every year. It chooses people from categories like chefs, food writers, and restaurant managers to create regional panels. Each panel includes several members, and they will all discuss amongst themselves until they agree on the top 50 restaurants in the world.

The SAVEUR Culinary Travel Awards

Some people believe no trip is a bad one. At SAVEUR, they know that some experiences can be better than others. To honor that tradition, SAVEUR created its own Culinary Travel Awards. Most traveling can involve several cities, restaurants, bars, hotels, and airlines. In order to give some recognition to all of them, SAVEUR provides awards across 13 key categories. They decide on the winners of each award via panels of experts and their own readers. Restaurants, markets, artisanal shops, cocktails, and hotel services are just some of the major categories at which SAVEUR looks in order to find outstanding recommendations.

The Gault Millau

A pair of restaurant critics from France pooled their talents to create the Gault Millau in 1965. The award derives its name from a combination of the surnames of its creators. The rating system gives dining establishments a score out of a possible 20 points. Unlike some other systems that give awards within the culinary industry, the Gault Millau bases its point values specifically on the quality of food alone. That said, reviewers will still choose to make comments about the overall atmosphere, level of service, or the price patrons must pay in relation to the quality of the dishes. Based on the system, restaurants can display up to four toque badges as a representation of the award.

During the time period in which both Gault and Millau were the primary authorities on which restaurants would receive the awards, no establishment ever achieved the highest rating of 20 points. This is a trend that would continue for many years following changes in the system's leadership. It would not be until 2004 that a pair of restaurants under the same chef would finally achieve a perfect score. Part of the reason for this may be that the staff overseeing the Gault Millau went through some changes. Notably, the guide went from employing a dedicated team of professional tasters to using various local agents to check out restaurants.

Some food critics have discussed whether this awards system or the Michelin are more important. Michelin appears to be more popular, but the Gault Millau places more of its focus on the taste and quality of the food than the former system does. There is also something of a difference in tone between the two guides. Historically, the Michelin maintained a position that more traditional high-level cuisine was of greater importance. The introduction of the Gault Millau challenged this notion.


While this list may not represent every possible award you could win in the culinary industry, it does give you an overview of some of the most famous or prestigious ones.

Most of these systems look at multiple categories, meaning that different kinds of restaurants or establishments could win awards from various systems every year. If you are in any sector of hospitality, one of these awards could give you both peer recognition and a nice boost in sales for a long time to come. Additionally, honing your skills is crucial in this competitive field. To learn more about the 13 Must-Have Skills for a Rewarding Hospitality Career, check out our comprehensive guide.

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