French chef sues Michelin over restaurant’s loss of third star
NANTERRE, FRANCE : French celebrity chef Marc Veyrat said on Tuesday that he has sued the Michelin guide after inspectors stripped his restaurant of its coveted third star, claiming they had botched their evaluation, in particular over a cheese souffle.
"I have been dishonoured, I saw my team in tears... to have them call you one evening without warning, without anything written down, without anything, to say, 'That's it, it is over,'" he told France Inter radio.
Veyrat's La Maison des Bois restaurant in the French Alps was demoted to two stars from the maximum three in January, just a year after he secured the industry's highest accolade.
He said the move plunged him into depression, and he later demanded he be removed from the vaunted guides - in vain.
He claims the downgrade came after a Michelin inspector mistakenly thought he had adulterated a cheese souffle with English cheddar, instead of using France's reblochon, Beaufort and tomme varieties.
"I put saffron in it, and the gentleman who came thought it was cheddar because it was yellow. That's what you call knowledge? It is crazy," Veyrat said.
His lawyer Emmanuel Ravanas said Veyrat hopes the court will force Michelin to hand over documents "to clarify the exact reasons" justifying its decision.
He said a court hearing has been set for Nov 27.
"For decades, Marc Veyrat has been used to having his cooking graded, evaluated and compared, and he knows quite well that you don't own a star for life... He accepts it all, as long as the criticism is accurate," Mr Ravanas said.
Veyrat, 69, made his name with his "botanical" cooking, employing the wild herbs gathered around his restaurants in his native Haute-Savoie region.
Earlier this year, he had tried to get Michelin to hand over the inspector notes or the bills proving they had dined at his establishment. He also claimed a new generation of editors were trying to make their names by attacking pillars of French cuisine.
But in a statement on Monday, Michelin said it "understands the disappointment for Mr Veyrat, whose talent no one contests, even if we regret his unreasonable persistence with his accusations".
"Our first duty is to tell consumers why we have changed our recommendation. We will carefully study his demands and respond calmly," it said.
Veyrat's recovery of a third star for La Maison des Bois last year capped a comeback after he was forced to give up cooking a decade ago following a serious skiing accident. He had previously won three stars for two other restaurants. - AFP