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31.12.2019 Europe

French chef loses cheddargate case against Michelin food bible over lost star

By RFI
©REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
LISTEN DEC 31, 2019

A star French chef who sought to force the Michelin restaurant guide to justify stripping his restaurant of a third star has lost his lawsuit against the guide.

The court in Nanterre, outside Paris, ruled that chef Marc Veyrat had offered no proof of any damage caused by the guide's demotion of his Maison des Bois restaurant in the Alps in January 2019.

Veyrat lost his top three-star rating after just one year and sued Michelin for a full explanation.

He wanted the court to force Michelin to reveal proof that inspectors ate at his restaurant and to hand over its judging notes. Such a ruling could have upended the world of fine dining by opening the door to lawsuits from other disgruntled chefs.

The 69 year old chef had sought a symbolic one euro in damages for a depression after he was stripped of the third star. But the court said he had failed to show any proof of material damage.

Ahead of the ruling Veyrat told Fre"nch news agency AFP that business in his La Maison des Bois was doing well, up 7 percent in the past year, and that "even between Christmas and New Year's Day, we're fully booked".

Narcissistic Diva Michelin's lawyers denounced the lawsuit as an abuse of the legal system by a "narcissistic diva" and demanded 30,000 euros in damages and compensation.

"It's a question of respecting the freedom of criticism and opinion in our country," Michelin's lawyer Richard Malka told AFP last week.

That claim was rejected by Veyrat's lawyer Emmanuel Ravanas, who said the chef has long since grown accustomed to being judged severely over his pricey creations.

"We're not here to forbid criticism, we want to check that criteria exist and that they have been applied correctly," he told the court.

Cheddargate Veyrat's stunning return to the world's restaurant firmament in January 2018 was hard won, coming nine years after he was forced to stop cooking because of a skiing accident, and three years after his restaurant was destroyed in a fire.

After his demotion, he demanded a meeting with Michelin's international director Gwendal Poullennec, who had been named just a few months before the 2019 listings.

The chef said he was told a scallop's texture was "cottony" - Veyrat says it was in fact a dish of local fish - and was accused of using English Cheddar cheese in a souffle.

"I have a lot of respect for Michelin in France... but they made a mistake in my case, and they need to recognise it," Veyrat said.

The self-taught Veyrat has spent most of his life cooking in his home village of Manigod, 1,600 metres up the Alps near Annecy.

Just days before the November hearing, Veyrat was named one of the 10 immortals of haute cuisine by the rival French Gault & Millau guide, alongside legends like Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy.

Michelin awards three stars to around 100 restaurants in the world each year. The rating is reserved to restaurants which are worth the "special journey" to dine there. Restaurants with two stars are "excellent" and "worth a detour".

(with AFP)

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