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Study Uncovers Some Surprising Michelin Star Clusters Located in Low Population Areas


April 20, 2024

Across the world fine dining is finding a home in some surprising places – the number of Michelin-star restaurant clusters in rural locations is rising fast

When we went looking for Michelin star clusters, we were surprised by the results. Some pretty sparsely populated areas are home to multiple Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurants.

One area of Italy has 1 Michelin Star for every 26 residents. In some cases, these places have more than the cities that surround them.

As well as uncovering them we dug a little deeper to find out how these clusters developed in sparsely populated areas. As well as examining the impact this phenomenon has on local life and culture.


The headline findings

  • With one star for every 26 people, Paestum in Italy has the highest concentration of Michelin stars per head of population.
  • Most Michelin Star low population clusters are in Europe.
  • Many of these clusters are in relatively isolated mountainous or coastal areas.
  • Courchevel is an area of low population with the most Michelin stars in the world

Across the world fine dining is finding a home in some surprising places – the number of Michelin-star restaurant clusters in rural locations is rising fast

When the Digital Signage experts Mandoe Media went looking for Michelin star clusters, they were surprised by the results. Some pretty sparsely populated areas are home to multiple Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurants.

One area of Italy has 1 Michelin Star for every 26 residents. In some cases, these places have more than the cities that surround them.

As well as uncovering them Mandoe Media dug a little deeper to find out how these clusters developed in sparsely populated areas. As well as examining the impact this phenomenon has on local life and culture.

The headline findings

  • With one star for every 26 people, Paestum in Italy has the highest concentration of Michelin stars per head of population.
  • Most Michelin Star low population clusters are in Europe.
  • Many of these clusters are in relatively isolated mountainous or coastal areas.
  • Courchevel is an area of low population with the most Michelin stars in the world

Paestum Italy has the most Michelin Stars per head of population in the world

The tiny Southern Italian coastal village of Paestum tops the list with one Michelin star for every 26 residents. Three of these restaurants are located within the boundaries of the village, with a 4th one just 21 km away in Eboli and another in Salerno, which is just 40 km away.

It is also within easy driving distance of the Amalfi coast, which is pockmarked with Michelin-star and Bib Gourmand restaurants. So, there is plenty of choice for those who enjoy fine dining.


How the Paestum Michelin Star cluster formed

In 2013, the first star in the cluster was awarded to Le Trabe. At the time Peppe Stanzione, from nearby Salerno was the chef. He used the experience he had gained working in Michelin-star restaurants in California, China, Thailand, and Australia to win the award. In 2018, he handed the reins over to another Campania-born chef, Marco Rispo who further enhanced the restaurant´s reputation.

Around the same time, several of the luxury hotels in the area also started to chase the stars. To date, two in Paestum have achieved that goal, as have several others in the area.

Without a doubt, the passion of the chefs, many of whom were born in the area, has been the main driver behind this achievement. But the fact that every year the area welcomes 450,000 visitors and its proximity to an airport have also been a big determining factor.


Here are the details of 3 of the restaurants in the Paestum in the order the stars were awarded, so you can see how this tiny place evolved into a center for fine dining:

Le Trabe

Le Trabe was the first restaurant in Paestum to gain a Michelin star. It opened in 1989 and has always focused on serving traditional dishes cooked using local ingredients. When Peppe Stanzione, who was born and raised just 40 km away arrived, he continued to serve Campanian-style dishes. Further developing a few of the favorites and adding many new dishes.

Under Marco Rispo, Le Trabe was also awarded a coveted, and still quite rare green star in 2021. The restaurant has its own hydroelectric system and a biodynamic garden which supplies the kitchen with seasonal vegetables.


Key facts

  •         1 star – awarded in 2013 when Peppe Stanzione was the chef
  •         Current chef – Marco Rispo – since 2018
  •         Cuisine – Campanian
  •         Outstanding dishes – Zucchini Parmesan and Hot Cold Migliccaio
  •         Location – Paestum
  •         Ambience – Contemporary


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Le Trabe´s Michelin entry says – “Once at your table, you’ll enjoy a series of elegant dishes which are full of flavor, inspired by the culinary traditions of Campania.”


Osteria Arbustico


Alongside his brother Tomas, chef Christian Cristian Torsiello gained experience as they went and fueled their passion for gourmet cooking. They both worked alongside Niko Romito who holds 3 Michelin stars. Armed with the skills they had built up, the brothers went back to their origins in Valva to open a restaurant that won a Michelin star before they closed it.

 At that point, they moved to Paestum to start again and took fresh inspiration from new surroundings and ingredients. Paestum is where the river meets the sea, which inspired Christian to develop menus and dishes that celebrate ingredients from both sources, using some of the local recipes as the basis.

Key facts

  • 1 star – awarded in 2015
  • Owner-chef – Cristian Torsiello
  • Cuisine – Modern, Campanian
  • Outstanding dishes – Spaghetti with Saffron
  • Location – The Royal Paestum Hotel
  • Ambience – Contemporary, minimalist


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Michelin´s opinion of Christian Torsiello – “His deceptively simple dishes always allow the flavor of his locally sourced ingredients to shine through.”


Tre Olivi

After working for years with Heinz Beck, Giovanni Solofra and Roberta Merolli struck out on their own and went to Tre Olivi in Paestum. They focused on slow food and took inspiration from the Mediterranean Diet.

Just 8 months later the restaurant was awarded 2 stars. An outstanding achievement which is especially impressive because Michelin usually favors gradual progress, so it normally takes years to achieve multiple stars.

Key facts

  •         2 Stars – both awarded in 2021
  •         Chef – Giovanni Solofra
  •         Cuisine – Creative, Campanian
  •         Outstanding dishes – Ffior d’acqua
  •         Location – The gourmet restaurant at the Savoy Beach Hotel, Paestum
  •         Ambience – Elegant, contemporary


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What Michelin says about Giovanni Solofra´s cooking – “He uses the techniques and extraordinary precision learned over the years to showcase the region’s local produce, along with the occasional addition (only if necessary!) of ingredients from further afield.”



Les Baux-de-Provence is 2nd on the list of low-population Michelin Star centers

Les Baux-de-Provence is not far behind Paestum in Italy, with only 29 people per star its residents are spoilt for choice. There are two in the village, another three up the road in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and in Eygalières and 5 more that are within a 45-minute drive.

How the Les Baux-de-Provence cluster developed

This low-pop Michelin star cluster started to form nearly 75 years ago when L’Oustau de Baumaniere won its first Michelin star in 1949. The other two were awarded in 1952 and 1954. It quickly became the go-to restaurant for celebrities and kickstarted the chain of events that led to the area becoming something of a culinary center.


L’Oustau de Baumaniere

This restaurant is a gastronomic legend that has been passed down through the generations. It was founded in 1945 by Raymond Thuilier. Today, it is run by his grandson Jean-André Charial. It has a legendary wine cellar with 60,000 references and bottles that are 150 years old. But, without a doubt, it is the food that is the main attraction.

Chef Glenn Viel focuses on using local produce including olive oil from the Vallee des Baux and organic vegetables grown in the estate´s own kitchen garden. Glenn Viel is a big fan of “carryover cooking” who often cooks on an open fire. He is inspired By Provencal cuisine, but also remains true to his Brittany roots. A culinary mix that has led to the creation of some iconic dishes.

  •         3 Stars – awarded in 1949,1952 & 1954 and a green star
  •         Chef – Glenn Viel
  •         Cuisine – Creative
  •         Outstanding dishes – Costières squab in a hay and rosemary crust
  •         Location – Les Baux-de-Provence
  •         Ambience – elegant, tranquil
  •         Price – €€€€


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Quote from Glenn Viel – “We give vegetables from our organic vegetable gardens and produce from local farmers a special place in our cuisine to showcase the Provençal produce in our menus.”


Restaurant de Tourrel

This hotel restaurant is tiny compared to most other Michelin-starred restaurants. It only seats 16. Fortunately, in the summer months, guests are offered the option to book themselves into their 2nd restaurant on the roof. The menu is different, and the rooftop does not have a Michelin star yet, but it has a strong reputation.

Both restaurants serve dishes inspired by local cuisine and made with local ingredients including Mediterranean squid, crayfish, and lamb from Crau. The current chef Romain Lorenzon was working as an assistant chef for Gordon Ramsay in 2019 when he secured one of his stars. He was also assistant chef at the Hôtel de Pavie en Saint-Emilion when its restaurant was also awarded a Michelin-star.

Key facts

  •         1 star – awarded in 2019 when chef Matthias Schütz was in charge
  •         Chef – Romain Lorenzon
  •         Cuisine – Provençal
  •         Location – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence,
  •         Ambience – Retro, small and exclusive
  •         Price – €€€€

When asked about his culinary style Romain Lorenzon said – “My cuisine tells the story of the local terroir and that of Mathieu, our fisherman from Camargue, Aurélien, the gardener of our vegetable garden and our indispensable local farmers. I invite you to share a moment around my Provencal cuisine.”


Fürstenau, Switzerland the newest low-population Michelin cluster takes the 3rd spot

In 3rd place is Fürstenau in Switzerland where there is one star for every 34 residents. With just 353 permanent residents this beautiful place is officially the world´s smallest city. Yet it still has two Michelin-starred restaurants and another that has a green star and has achieved Bib Gourmand status.

Nearby, in La Brezza, Arosa, La Riva and Lenzerheide there are several more, as well as 2 other 2-star restaurants that are under an hour’s drive away.

How the cluster formed

This cluster has developed largely because of the efforts of one man – Andreas Caminada. He was born and raised in the area, so his culinary roots have always been here. In 2002 he moved back to the area and started to open restaurants. One after the other most of them have been awarded Michelin stars.

Here are the details of the most important of the restaurants in the Fürstenau cluster:

Schloss Schauenstein

To say that the owner Andreas Caminada is passionate about food is an understatement, when it comes to gourmet dining, he is a force of nature. After years of working across the world, Andreas Caminada who grew up among the Swiss Alps of Graubünden returned home, bought a 17th-century castle, and turned it into a stunning restaurant. Within a year of opening the restaurant was awarded its first star.

Today, it is chef Marcel Skibba who runs the kitchen. He has worked with Caminada for many years. During the winter months, he manages IGNIV by Andreas Caminada in the Badrutt’s Palace luxury hotel in St. Moritz.

Key facts

  •         3 Stars – 1st star awarded in 2003, 2nd in 2007, a 3rd one in 2007 and a green star
  •         Chef – Marcel Skibba
  •         Cuisine – Creative, Country cooking
  •         Outstanding dishes – Gugelhupf appetizer
  •         Location – Fürstenau
  •         Ambience – stunning historical setting
  •         Price – €€€€



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Quote from Andreas Caminada – “We aspire only to ever serve the best! It took us a long time to get there, but we support organic farmers and use their produce. In addition, we promote and protect young talents through our foundation, Fundaziun Uccelin, to safeguard our profession and our quality standards.”



OZ is also owned and run by Andreas Caminada. All of the dishes are vegetarian and virtually all of the ingredients are grown in the castle´s 2-hectare garden.

  •         1 star and a green star
  •         Chef – Timo Fritsche
  •         Cuisine – Vegetarian
  •         Outstanding dishes – Basil, celery and green strawberries
  •         Location – Fürstenau
  •         Price – €€€€

Quote from chef Timo Fritsche – “Our purely vegetarian set menu is based on which of our over 800 home-grown plant species are in season. We create virtually no waste, do our own composting, and can change our menu daily. Our aim is to be growing 100% of our own produce.”


Dominique Schrotter comes from a family of restauranteurs, starting with his great-grandfather who ran a winery. His food roots are rustic Swiss, but he also worked for many years in Australia and Bangkok. As a result, the food served at LA RIVA is a fusion of flavours from all of these cultures.

  •         1 star – awarded in 2023
  •         Chef – Dominique Schrotter
  •         Cuisine – Modern French, Classic Cuisine
  •         Outstanding dishes – Périgord truffle dashi and sushi
  •         Location – Lenzerheide
  •         Ambience – modern yet still cozy
  •         Price – €€€


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Dominique Schrotter ´s passion is clear in this quote  -“The fascination of how simple foods become sophisticated dishes, compositions of herbs and spices – this fascination inspires me every day.”

Courchevel is the low population area with the highest total number of Michelin-Stars

Courchevel is an example of a Michelin-star cluster that has been fed by sports tourism and the presence of high-wealth individuals.

The purpose-built skiing resort has only 2,311 permanent residents, yet the restaurants in the six villages that make up Courchevel have 14 Michelin stars. With nearby villages offering 5 more starred restaurants.



That works out at only a star ratio of 1 per 231 head of population, so it is quite a long way down Mandoe Media´s ranking table. But Courchevel does have the highest total number of stars of any other low-population area.

The resort has 31,000 beds and during the skiing season, they are normally full because most of the guests have a high level of disposable income and there is no shortage of customers. Needless to say, after a day spent on the slopes, they have built up quite an appetite.

These are the resort’s top Michelin-star restaurants :


Le Chabichou

Le Chabichou opened in 1987 with chef Michel Rochedy at the helm. From the start, he used the best Savoie ingredients to create stunning food. Guests were welcomed into the restaurant by Maryse Rochedy who set the scene perfectly and ensured that the service was flawless. Michel is another chef who learned to cook working in his parents´ hotel, cooking is truly in his bones.

When the current head chef Stéphane Buron arrived, he and Michel Rochedy worked together to transition the restaurant seamlessly into the modern age. Guests love the beautiful views and dining on the expansive terrace.

Key facts

  •         2 Stars – the first awarded in 1988 when Michel Rochedy was the chef and the 2nd in 1996 when Stéphane Buron was the chef
  •         Chef – Stéphane Buron
  •         Cuisine – Modern
  •         Outstanding dishes – a single set menu of 5 to 9 courses of exquisitely prepared variations on the classics
  •         Location – Courchevel 1850
  •         Ambience – hushed elegance
  •         Price – €€€€


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Michelin says“Premium ingredients prepared in time-honoured tradition, a repertoire full of finesse and welcome variations on the classics… fine work!”


Le 1947 a Cheval Blanc

Like so many top restaurants, Le 1947 Cheval Blanc is located in a hotel, which shares the same name. It opened in 2008 and is incredibly exclusive. Guests sit in an all-white dining room at one of 5 tables that are arranged around an open kitchen where Yannick´s brigade prepares the food.

Yannick Alléno is a talent accelerator who owns 17 restaurants, which have 16 stars between them, including two that have 3 Michelin stars. His parents ran a bistro in which he worked from a young age. A culinary background that still inspires him today. He uses contemporary techniques to cook traditional French food, which produces spectacular results.

Key facts

  •         3 Stars – awarded between 2014 and  2017
  •         Chef – Yannick Alléno
  •         Cuisine – modern contemporary French cuisine
  •         Location – Courchevel 1850
  •         Ambience – crisp and futuristic all-white dining room
  •         Price – €€€€



Michelin says – “Yannick Alléno has trodden a remarkable path!”


Sylvestre Wahid – Les Grandes Alpes

Courchevel offers a wide range of cuisines and the resort´s fine dining offering is constantly evolving. Sylvestre Wahid´s Les Grandes Alpes demonstrates this perfectly. From the age of 9 Sylvestre was raised in France, and he trained under Thierry Marx and Alain Ducasse. He has a true passion for French cuisine but is not afraid to turn to his Pakistani roots for culinary inspiration.

His Courchevel restaurant opened in 2020 and by 2024 had reached 2 Michelin star status. It only has 4 tables and seats 15 guests per sitting, so it offers a truly personal dining experience.

Key Facts

  •         2 Stars – both awarded under Sylvestre Wahid – the 1st in 2022 and the 2nd in 2024
  •         Chef – Sylvestre Wahid
  •         Cuisine – Creative
  •         Outstanding dishes – generous tasting menu
  •         Location – Courchevel 1850
  •         Ambience – intimate
  •         Price – €€€€

Michelin says of Sylvestre Wahid´s cooking – “Magnificent produce, premium ingredients, delicate sauces, expert seasonings, impeccable technical skill and, above all, a dash of emotion.”

Bray – The world´s most famous village-based Michelin Star Cluster

Bray is an example of a cluster that largely formed as a result of the passion a group of chefs had for producing exquisite meals. A passion that now spans the generations. It is also a cluster where the wealth of the individuals visiting the area to work played a significant role in its founding and development.

When you search for Bray on the Michelin site you are presented with 12 restaurants that share 16 stars between them. Three of them are located in the village itself and they share a total of  7 stars. An impressive tally for a village of only 8,425 people.

Bray is home to 22% of all of the 3-star restaurants in the UK.


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There is no doubt that Heston Blumenthal has played a significant role in turning Bray into a bastion of fine dining. However, it was the Roux brothers who started that process.  When in 1974 their restaurant The Waterside Inn was awarded the village’s first Michelin star, it kickstarted a movement within the area to provide the finest food possible.

Here are the details of Bray´s Michelin-starred restaurants, roughly in order of when the stars were awarded, so that you can see the timeline and better understand how this cluster formed:


Waterside Inn

When it comes to fine dining in Bray, many argue that the Waterside Inn is where the movement got started. After being the first chefs in the UK to secure 3 Michelin stars with their London restaurant Le Gavroche the Roux brothers opened The Waterside Inn. Three years later, they were awarded a Michelin star.

They focused on classic French food. That, the beautiful setting, and its proximity to Bray Studios combined to make the restaurant a roaring success. The actors and musicians who worked at the studios had enough income to pay for fine dining. Pierre Koffman, who went on to open his own Michelin-starred restaurant, was the head chef there for the first 5 years.

The Waterside Inn was the first restaurant in the UK to retain its 3 stars for more than 25 years. Today, Michel Roux´s son Alain carries the flame and is the patron chef.

Key Facts

  •         3 Stars – the first was awarded in 1974, the 2nd in 1977 and the 3rd one in 1985
  •         Chef – Fabrice Uhyrn and patron-chef Alain Roux
  •         Cuisine – Classic French
  •         Outstanding dishes – lobster and first-class soufflé
  •         Location – Bray
  •         Price – ££££


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Michelin entry – “Flavors are full, and sauces are intense, but there’s also a lightness of touch to the execution.”


The Fat Duck

Heston Blumenthal opened the Fat Duck in 1995, and in 1999 it was awarded its first star. He is another chef whose passion for food was ignited at a very young age.

While on holiday with his family, as a child, Heston and his family dined at the 3-star L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence. He was blown away and decided there and then to be a chef.

His passion led to him securing an apprenticeship with Raymond Blanc. But, within a week he had left. He taught himself to cook and, in the process, became obsessed with the science behind cooking, which radically changed him and led to his off-the-wall culinary creations.

People who eat at The Fat Duck get far more than just a meal. There is a strong theatrical element to the experience, which greatly enhances the occasion. It engages all of the senses in a way that intensifies the flavor of the food.

Key Facts

  •         3 Stars – 1st star in 1999, the 2nd in 2002 and the 3rd in 2004.
  •         Chef – Heston Blumenthal
  •         Cuisine – Creative
  •         Outstanding dishes – The Full Sensorium tasting experience
  •         Location – Bray
  •         Price – ££££

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Heston Blumenthal´s ethos – “Eating is the only thing that we do that involves all the senses. We eat with our eyes and our ears and our noses.”


Hinds Head

The Hinds Head is also owned and operated by Heston Blumenthal. Its chef Peter Gray, like Heston, also had a slightly late start to his career. He took a job as a kitchen porter at Middlethorpe Hall, fell in love with the business and worked his way up before moving to work with two-time starred chef Paul Kitching who, like Heston, enjoyed creating quirky dishes. Peter went straight from there to work with two-Michelin-starred Adam Simmonds. Before joining the Hinds Head team, in 2013.

Key Facts

  •         1 star – awarded in 2013
  •         Chef – Peter Gray
  •         Cuisine – Traditional British
  •         Outstanding dishes – Oxtail and kidney pudding
  •         Location – Bray
  •         Ambience – quintessentially English inn
  •         Price – £££


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Quote from Michelin guide – “British dishes presented in a clean, modern style, with punchy flavours and the occasional playful element.”

The Michelin Star cascade effect

It is worth noting that the Michelin star cascade effect you can see in Bray is repeated in many places. Once one chef breaks through and builds a following, other restaurateurs in the area see the potential and start to up their game to compete.

This gets the attention of fine dining fans, which builds a good customer base for a chef to take things to the next level and secure a Michelin star. As more chefs arrive the village becomes even more of a magnet for fine dining fans.

Below we take a closer look at some of the places that have experienced that cascade effect.


Lake Windermere- an example of a low-pop Michelin-star cluster created in an area of natural beauty

Discovering a restaurant that serves wonderful food while also offering a stunning view is always a great experience. It is no surprise that chefs who want to offer something a little different are attracted to places of natural beauty.

Often, you will find restaurants in relatively isolated locations. Places like natural parks where time has stood still when it comes to new buildings are by their very nature low population areas.

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Lake Windermere in the Lake District is a great example. Two significant clusters have built up, one at either end of the lake. Ambleside with three 1-star restaurants and Cartmel, has a total of 4 stars shared between 3 restaurants. Bowness-on-Windermere, which is on the lake itself, also has a starred restaurant.

Here are the details of a few of the restaurants in the Lake Windermere cluster:


This charming restaurant, which is set in a 13th-century blacksmith workshop, is the brainchild of Simon Rogan. His father was a fruit and vegetable salesman and often brought home unsold produce which the family would turn into delicious meals. As a child, Simon experienced first-hand an innovative approach to cooking and came to recognize the importance of good-quality produce.  It also sparked his interest in sustainable gastronomy and led to him becoming a farmer as well as a chef. Over the years, he has gradually sourced more of the restaurant´s ingredients from the farm. In 2022, Paul Burgalières took over as head chef and has continued to innovate and use local produce.

Key Facts

  •         3 Stars – awarded in 2005, 2012, and 2022 as well as a green star in 2021.
  •         Chef – Paul Burgalières
  •         Cuisine – Creative British
  •         Location – Cartmel
  •         Price – ££££


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Simon ROGAN MBE´s ethos is to be as green as possible he said – ““At L’Enclume we use ingredients from our 12-acre farm, which was designed by chefs, for chefs, along with local suppliers for meat and fish. We have continually developed preserving methods over the past decade to enable us to extend the time we can rely on our own growing.”


SOURCE at Gilpin Hotel

SOURCE, which opened in 2023, is located in the luxury Gilpin Hotel, which has 3 kitchens, each of which offers guests the chance to enjoy 3 dining experiences. Just after SOURCE launched the new restaurant was awarded a Michelin star.

Ollie Bridgwater, formerly of The Fat Duck is the chef here. This is another restaurant, which showcases the region’s wonderful ingredients. Including Herdwick lamb and local goat’s cheese. Diners can choose between a 10-course tasting menu and a lighter 3-course option that changes daily.

Key Facts

  •         1 star – awarded in 2023
  •         Chef – Ollie Bridgwater
  •         Cuisine – Modern
  •         Location – Bowness-on-Windermere
  •         Ambience – a series of small contemporary dining rooms
  •         Price – ££££


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When his appointment was announced Ollie Bridgwater said – “We will be looking into the sustainable aspects of absolutely everything we do, that will be an important cornerstone. We’ll be collaborating across all three restaurants to use each animal nose to tail, ensuring nothing is wasted.”


The Old Stamp House

In 2014, brothers Ryan and Craig Blackburn, who were born locally, opened The Old Stamp House, a restaurant that showcased the heritage and food of Cumbria. Just 5 years later it was awarded a Michelin star.

The restaurant is located in the former office of the poet William Wordsworth, who was also a stamp distributor. A fact that inspired the restaurant´s name.  It is an intimate space with only 28 covers and the dining area is located in the restored cellar.

Key Facts

  •         1 star – awarded in 2019
  •         Chef – Ryan Blackburn
  •         Cuisine – traditional with a twist
  •         Outstanding dishes – a journey around Cumbria
  •         Location – Ambleside
  •         Price – £££


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Michelin Guide quote – “The skilfully prepared dishes have been well-thought-through and carefully balance bold and delicate flavours; each one has a story – sometimes historic, sometimes personal.”

Sonoma – an example of wine culture fueling a low population Michelin star cluster

Wine regions have it all. They offer beautiful natural surroundings, in an area that already attracts lots of well-heeled tourists. Because the food culture is strong in wine-growing areas, there is normally easy access to slow-grown, high-quality produce.

By their very nature, wine regions are sparsely populated, but a significant percentage of those residents will be high-wealth individuals. When the uber-rich tire of buying cars and yachts it is not unusual for them to buy a vineyard, fall in love with life, and move there permanently.

The area around Sonoma in California, which includes the Napa Valley, is a great example of a place where wine culture has fed into creating an impressive Michelin star cluster. The county of Sonoma is already home to 7 restaurants that have the Bib Gourmet award, which is a sign that it has the potential to end up with even more Michelin stars in the not-too-distant future.

The French Laundry

When it comes to food pedigree you can´t beat The French Laundry. The building started life as a saloon before becoming home to a French steam laundry, hence the name. In 1978, Don and Sally Schmitt turned it into a restaurant and created the restaurant´s culinary garden, which is still in use today. Sally was passionate about cooking sustainably and well, which meant using local, largely organic ingredients. She helped to launch the farm-to-table movement that has had a global impact on the culinary world and was a major contributor to the Californian cuisine movement.

When Thomas Keller bought The French Laundry in 1994, he carried on using local produce and growing much of it in Sally´s original kitchen garden. For the past 30 years he has continued to innovate and evolve his cooking.


Key Facts

  •         3 Stars –  the 1st in 2006 and two more in 2007, with the green star being awarded in 2020
  •         Chef – Thomas Keller
  •         Cuisine – Contemporary French
  •         Outstanding dishes – oysters and pearls
  •         Location – Yountville
  •         Price – $$$$


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Quote from The French Laundry´s website – “When ingredients arrive at the restaurant they are, in one sense, already finished. At the stove, we have no control over how an animal was raised or the way a peach was harvested. As chefs, all we can do is to carefully select our suppliers and then work with them to ensure we get the best possible ingredients.”


Auberge du Soleil

The Napa Valley Auberge du Soleil was opened in 1981 by the French chef Claude Rouas and his business partner Bob Harmon. It was the area´s first fine-dining restaurant. The traditional French ambiance and food quickly turned it into a venue that people flocked to. It became an important element of The Auberge Resorts Collection. A company that creates a one-of-a-kind complex of vineyards, hotels, clubs, and residences.

In 2005, Robert Curry became the executive chef and within 2 years the Auberge du Soleil had secured its 1st Michelin star. The food is Californian, which is a cuisine that draws a lot of inspiration from Mediterranean cooking. As you would expect the restaurant has a wonderful wine collection. At last count, there were 15,000+  bottles in its cellar.


  •         1 star – awarded in 2007
  •         Chef – Robert Curry
  •         Cuisine – Californian
  •         Outstanding dishes – pea shoots and parmesan nage and a stunning torte au chocolat
  •         Location – Rutherford
  •         Price – $$$$

Michelin says – “Dishes continue to dazzle all the way through to dessert.”



This stunning, authentic Japanese restaurant is a breath of fresh air. It is the brainchild of the husband and wife team Kenzo and Natsuko Tsujimoto. Natsuko designed this beautiful serene dining space which seats 25 and provides some lucky diners with the chance to sit at the counter and speak to Kenzo as he cooks.

Once again the focus is on seasonal ingredients, a concept which the Japanese call shun. Much of the produce used is sourced locally, but most dishes also include authentic Japanese ingredients, which are imported from Japan. Kenzo trained at the esteemed Tsuji Culinary School and worked at Nagaya, which was the only Japanese restaurant in Germany to secure a Michelin star.

  •         1 star – awarded in 2017
  •         Chef – Kenzo Tsujimoto
  •         Cuisine – Authentic Japanese
  •         Outstanding dishes – straw smoked Hokkaido scallop, sashimi with jidori egg yolk sauce
  •         Location – Napa
  •         Ambience – serene and minimal
  •         Price – $$$$


Image credit:

Michelin quote – “Kenzo Tsujimoto’s Napa Valley temple of traditional Japanese cuisine is a place to wash away worldly cares.”

Why more low-population Michelin-Star clusters will emerge

Many of these small towns and villages also have restaurants that Michelin has awarded the Bib Gourmand award for offering exceptional food at a low cost. As well as others that have been recognized by the organization for good cooking.

The majority of the chefs and owners of these establishments are actively working towards turning these awards into actual stars. As a result, there is a good chance that these low-population fine dining clusters will thrive and grow, which is one reason we can expect to see even more of them emerge in the future.



In addition, the number of stars that are awarded is growing every year. In 2023, 137 had 3 stars, in 2024, there were 153. As the number of Michelin star establishments increases, new clusters are being formed. Naturally, most of them are still forming in densely populated areas, but some of them will be located in rural places.

The fact that people are travelling more and are seeking out places where they can get far from the madding crowd is also playing a role. Mass tourism can transform a sleepy village into a buzzing place, with enough visitors to support good quality restaurants, which eventually merit a Michelin star. The potential for this to happen is huge. According to the FMI, the sector is running at 6.8% and predicts that the market value will have nearly doubled by 2033.

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