How Wolfgang Puck Feels Restaurants With 2 And 3 Michelin Stars Differ

As of January 2023, only 142 restaurants in the world boast a three-star rating from Michelin Guide. And whether you love or hate it (Anthony Bourdain wasn't a fan: "The only people who really care about Michelin stars in New York are French guys," he told Vanity Fair in 2015), the honor carries a lot of clout — and each Michelin star means something different.

Receiving Michelin recognition raises establishments to elevated echelons, donning businesses overnight with the highly sought-after, elusive status of "cool." Reservations start flooding in; Prices can be raised and foodies will pay without blinking. At large, Michelin status is reserved for the fine dining world — a realm Wolfgang Puck knows like the back of his hand.

Puck holds three Michelin stars (two for his restaurant Spago Beverly Hills and one for CUT, which earned its star just one year after opening), so he has first-hand knowledge when it comes to how two and three-starred restaurants differ.

It's about the vibe

Fittingly to the fine dining world, according to Puck, the difference between two and three Michelin stars has a lot to do with fanciness. "A lot of two-star restaurants are really inventive and have really great food," the chef explains to WIRED. "Now a three-star restaurant, everything has to be perfect — the food, the service, the wine cellar, the glassware, the plates ... If you go to a three-star restaurant, it has a certain look, a certain style. With two-star, you don't have to be as fancy."

If you ask Michelin Guide itself, the food alone is judged based on five specific criteria: quality of ingredients, mastery of flavor and techniques, how well the chef's personality comes through their dish, value for money, and consistency between visits. But, the exact way these criteria manifest differs subjectively from one judge to the next. As Michelin Guide's International Director Gwendal Poullennec explains to USA Today, anonymous judges scour potential restaurants and give them "as many stars as a destination deserves to have." 

While the judging may exist on a somewhat nuanced scale, any restaurant that garners a visit from a Michelin representative in the first place is probably doing more than a few things right.