France’s Michelin Guide full of surprises

A French chef who had shocked the culinary world by handing back his Michelin stars was stunned on Monday to find himself back in the prestigious guide's new French edition.

Chef Sebastien Bras cited the "huge pressure" that came with Michelin recognition when he asked in September 2017 for his three-star restaurant Le Suquet to be left out of the 2018 guide, which Michelin agreed to.

Bras spent the following year rustling up inventive French cuisine at his restaurant in the town of Laguiole, without worrying whether it was meeting Michelin's exacting standards.

But on Monday, the 47-year-old said he was "surprised" to see it back in the 2019 guide, with two stars.

He said: "This contradictory decision has left us with doubts, even if in any case we no longer worry about either the stars or the strategies of the guide."

Michelin said it had celebrated more female chefs and young talent in its 2019 guide to the best restaurants in France.

Stephanie Le Quellec won a second star for La Scene, while 24-year-old wunderkind Julia Sedefdjian won her first for new restaurant Baieta.

In one of the biggest shocks, the Auberge de L'Ill, a restaurant in Alsace that has held three stars for 51 years, lost one.

"It's hard for the team, it's hard for everyone - the customers, the family," its chef Marc Haeberlin said.

"I don't know how to explain this loss," said Haeberlin, whose family has run an inn in Alsace for 150 years.

Alpine chef Marc Veyrat also confirmed his restaurant the Maison des Bois lost its third star.

"I'm terribly disappointed. I can't understand it at all. I will stay combative and stand by the team," Veyrat said, blasting the decision as "unfair".

The guide's new international director Gwendal Poullennec had promised to breathe new life into its pages this year.

A record 75 restaurants have earned new spots in the one-, two- or three-star rankings.

A large number of international chefs are also honoured.Argentine Mauro Colagreco, whose Mirazur restaurant on the glitzy Cote d'Azur ranked fourth last year on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list, became the only foreigner to hold three stars in France.

Chef Laurent Petit meanwhile praised the feared Michelin reviewers for having "the sense" to award him a third star for Le Clos des Sens restaurant in Annecy.

"I'm delighted to have won a third star with endive roots and a cabbage tart. Simple, simple, simple," he said. - AFP

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