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Renowned French chef sues Michelin over lost star citing cheddar error

A court hearing is set for November 27 in Nanterre, Agence France-Presse reports.

Veyrat’s restaurant, roughly 160 kilometres east of Lyon, was first awarded the coveted three-star Michelin ranking in 2018. Much of the food in the $US330 to $US430 ($485 to $630) tasting menu comes from the restaurant’s own botanic gardens and orchards.

The famed chef learnt in January that his restaurant was losing a star just one year after it had achieved the three-star ranking – widely considered among the most prestigious distinctions in the fine-dining business.

“I’ve been in a depression for six months. How dare you take hostage the health of cooks?” Veyrat lamented during his interview with Le Point, during which he blamed the “amateur” nature of the Michelin reviewers.

“It scares me for the new generations to come. In fact, the only reason given was confusion over the reblochon and Beaufort emulsion with cheddar,” he said. He went on to call the Michelin reviewers “impostors” who deliberately stir up fights for “commercial reasons”.

Among Veyrat’s grievances is his belief that reviewers – in violation of Michelin’s own stated best practices – did not visit the restaurant multiple times. He’s demanding receipts from Michelin to prove its independent, anonymous reviewers in fact dined at Le Maison des Bois more than once.

The receipts are among the records Veyrat’s lawsuit is hoping to compel from Michelin, his lawyer Emmanuel Ravanas told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday.

In a statement, Michelin spokesman Jerome Bourret said, “We understand the disappointment of 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.”

Ravanas said, “For decades, 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.”

The annual Michelin Red Guide evaluates mostly fine dining restaurants in cities around the world and awards what it considers the very top-tier establishments with between one and three stars. While even one star is an honour, a three-star designation can be the pinnacle of a chef’s career. It’s an exclusive group: there are just 27 three-star restaurants in France and fewer than 140 in the whole world.

The pressure on chefs to achieve and then maintain Michelin star and other haute cuisine status can be intense. When award-winning French chef Bernard Loiseau killed himself in 2003, those close to him speculated that one factor was his fear over losing a Michelin star after being downgraded by another rating authority.

But for as much as chefs covet Michelin stars, some have started to reject the recognition. Veyrat tried to “give back” his rating after he was downgraded this year. Michelin said it would still list his restaurant, though it can’t force chefs to acknowledge the honour.

The Washington Post

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