The Lowdown: Marc Veyrat versus Michelin

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Marc Veyrat (R) at the 2018 Michelin Guide France announcement
Marc Veyrat (R) at the 2018 Michelin Guide France announcement

Related tags: Michelin, Restaurant, France

French chef Marc Veyrat says he plans to sue Michelin claiming the awards body downgraded his restaurant because an inspector wrongly identified cheddar cheese in a soufflé.

You cannot brie serious…
We are, but this is merely the latest development in a bemusing saga that has gone on for several months now.

How did it all start?
It all kicked off in January, when Michelin demoted Marc Veyrat’s La Maison des Bois restaurant in the Haut-Savoie region of France to two stars, having awarded it three a year earlier. Suffice to say, the chef was not best pleased. In a letter​ written earlier in the summer, Veyrat hit out at the “amateurism” of Michelin inspectors and asked to withdraw from its pages. He was particularly incensed by the food inspectors saying his restaurant’s cheese soufflé contained cheddar, adding that the cheeses used in the dish were always French and included varieties such as Beaufort and Reblochon. He wrote: “I have been depressed for six months. How dare you take the health of your chefs hostage?”

What did Michelin say in response?
It refused to allow the chef to hand back his stars. Gwendal Poullennec, ​international director of the Michelin guide, said in a statement​ at the time: "We are not removing the restaurant La Maison des Bois from the Michelin guide. If the institution remains open and our inspectors evaluate the table at one of our awards, we will continue to recommend it.” In response, Veyrat now says he is going to sue Michelin over the matter. He hopes that legal action will force Michelin guide inspectors to provide documents "to clarify the exact reasons" for their decision to strip the restaurant of its third star, his lawyer Emmanuel Ravanas has told AFP news agency. A court hearing is set for 27 November.

Given that the restaurant retains two stars, isn’t this a bit of an overreaction?
It certainly could be perceived as such, but there’s no denying the weight and influence Michelin’s ratings can carry. Take the tragic story of chef Bernard Loiseau, for example, who committed suicide in 2003 when newspaper reports hinted that his La Côte d'Or restaurant might lose its three-star status. Or, more recently, Sebastian Bras, who requested his three star Le Suquet restaurant in Laguiole be left out of the 2018 Michelin Guide France after saying he had struggled with the pressure that came with the awards. When it comes to locking horns, though, Veyrat is by no means the first high-profile chef to have form with the prestigious awards body.

Who else has?
Most notably Marco Pierre White, who in 1999 handed back the three Michelin stars he had been awarded five years previously saying that “they didn't mean that much anymore” and “maintaining three stars is pretty boring”. More recently he refused permission for Michelin inspectors to visit his The English House restaurant in Singapore, which opened earlier this year.

Blimey. When's the next Michelin guide set to be published?
Soon. Michelin will publish its UK & Ireland Guide 2020​ on 7 October at The Hurlingham Club.

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