Eo Yun-gwon, who runs Ristorante Eo in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, told The Korea Herald it was “insulting” to be included in the “unwholesome book”.
The Michelin Guide Seoul 2020 was announced on 14 November, and the following day Eo posted on social media that he had taken legal action against Michelin Travel Partner, accusing it of insult, which is a crime under Korean law.
He wrote that he was against the gourmet guide “forcefully listing” his restaurant “as a sidekick [to other restaurants] on the list without having definite standards”.
“Though being listed in the Michelin Guide may have a great promotional effect on the restaurant, I don’t want any help from an opaque, subjective company,” the chef told The Korea Herald.
Ristorante Eo was awarded one star in the inaugural 2017 and 2018 editions of the Seoul guide, but was downgraded to The Plate rating in the 2019 and 2020 red book.
It is described by Michelin as offering ‘highly accomplished modern Italian cuisine’.
This is the first time a Korean chef has taken legal action against Michelin, but the red book has clashed with several European operators.
In September French chef Marc Veyrat announced he was suing the guide after his restaurant was stripped of the maximum three-star rating. He claimed inspectors ‘dared to say we put cheddar in our souffle’.
French chef Sebastian Bras’ Le Suquet restaurant in Laguiole, which held three stars for 18 years, was left out of the 2018 Michelin Guide France at his request after he admitted to struggling with the pressure that came with the awards.
But Bras was surprised to find his restaurant had re-entered the 2019 edition with two stars.
A representative for the red book in Korea told The Korea Herald its principle was ‘to make independent decisions, whether the restaurants request to be included or excluded in the list’.