Celebrity chef Marc Veyrat who in September 2019 sued the Michelin Guide after it stripped his restaurant, La Maison des Bois in Manigod, France, of one of its Michelin stars, has lost the lawsuit, The Indian Express reported.
A court in France on Dec 31 ruled that there was no proof that any material damage was suffered on account of the Michelin star downgrade. The restaurant previously had three Michelin stars.
Through the lawsuit, Veyrat wanted the restaurant guide to provide the reasons for stripping the restaurant of its third star. He also demanded $1 in symbolic damages for the depression that followed the verdict.
Michelin’s bastion of lawyers denounced Veyrat as a “narcissistic diva,” and the lawsuit as an abuse of the legal system. They argued the case was about freedom of opinion and criticism, and even demanded 30,000 euros in compensation.
The court ordered Veyrat to pay costs to Michelin.
“If they had told me, ‘Mr Veyrat, your cooking is not as good as before,’ I would accept it. I respect the Michelin guide, so I’d say ‘Amen, we will do what’s necessary’,” he told AFP after the ruling.
“But these are unbelievable criteria” for judging, he said, adding that he was considering whether to appeal.
Veyrat’s stunning return to the world’s restaurant firmament 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, Global Times reported.
After his demotion, he demanded a meeting with Michelin’s international director Gwendal Poullennec, who had been appointed 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 accused of using English Cheddar cheese in a souffle.
After asking Michelin to remove his restaurant from the guide altogether, which it refused, Veyrat took them to court.
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, he 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.
The showman chef, known as much for his ubiquitous black Savoyard hat as his “botanical” creations from local herbs and produce, had already said Michelin’s accolades weren’t necessary.
“I really don’t need them,” Veyrat said shortly before the ruling, saying business was up seven percent over the past year.
“Even between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we’re fully booked. We’ve never been this busy,” he added.
“At this rate, I wish they’d take away all my stars!”
What is the Michelin guide, and what is the big fuss about it?
In 1889, the brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin founded the Michelin tyre company in France. At the time, the prospects for a tyre company weren’t bright, since roughly 3,000 cars were being driven in the whole of France.
As a result, in order to encourage motorists, the brothers started giving out for free a guide that provided basic information such as maps, places to eat, how to change a tyre, and where to fill petrol.
Then, based on the principle of “Man only truly respects what he pays for,” they started selling the Michelin Guide from 1920 onwards at a cost of seven francs.
The scope of the guide was subsequently widened to include information such as a list of hotels in Paris, and restaurants according to specific categories. The guide also abandoned paid-for advertisements.
As the guide’s restaurant section became more influential, they recruited a team of “mystery diners,” who visited and reviewed the restaurants anonymously.
From 1926 onward, the guide started awarding stars to fine dining establishments. There was only a single star in the beginning, but later, a hierarchy of zero, one, two, and three stars was established.
In 1936, the starred rankings were published for the first time. As per the Michelin website, the guide now rates over 30,000 establishments in over 30 territories across four continents.
In order for a restaurant to be reviewed by the Michelin Guide, it has to be located in a territory or country for which a Michelin Guide already exists. In Asia, Michelin Guides exist for Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, and Seoul.
The Michelin Guide conveys its restaurant reviews through two-three line summaries, and an “extensive system of symbols,” the most common symbol being the Michelin star itself.
A restaurant may receive between zero and three Michelin stars, and is judged on five criteria: quality of the ingredients used, mastery of flavour and cooking techniques, the personality of the chef in his cuisine, value for money, and consistency between visits.
As per the Michelin website, the restaurant inspectors who remain anonymous do not look at the interior decor, table setting or service quality when awarding stars.