A bout with soufflé: chef's fight with Michelin guide reaches French court

It began with the alleged snubbing of a cheese soufflé and turned into one of the most vicious battles in French restaurant criticism.

The row between the celebrity French chef Marc Veyrat and the Michelin guide will go before a French court on Wednesday as the chef tries to force inspectors to hand over their confidential judging notes to explain why his restaurant in the French Alps was stripped of its coveted third star.

The case is the first time a chef has sued the French institution to force it to hand over the notes of anonymous inspectors.

Veyrat’s La Maison des Bois restaurant in Manigod was demoted to two stars from the maximum three in January, a year after he secured the industry’s highest ranking.

He claimed the downgrade came after a Michelin inspector mistakenly thought he had adulterated a cheese soufflé with English cheddar, instead of using France’s reblochon, beaufort and tomme varieties. “I put saffron in it, and the gentleman who came thought it was cheddar because it was yellow. That’s what you call knowledge of a place? It’s just crazy,” Veyrat told France Inter at the time.

The Michelin guide entry on the restaurant did not mention cheese soufflé.

Marc Veyrat poses at his restaurant (La Maison Des Bois) in Manigod, France.

Marc Veyrat poses at his restaurant (La Maison Des Bois) in Manigod, France. Photograph: Loona/Abaca/ABACA/PA Images

Veyrat, 69, made his name with his so-called “botanical” cooking, using the wild herbs gathered around his restaurants in his native Haute Savoie region. He has described how botanists collect the plants for use daily in his kitchen, while eggs and milk come from animals raised nearby.

The chef, known for his wide-brimmed black Savoyard hat, recently told radio and TV programmes that the downgrade had left him depressed for eight months, that his whole kitchen team cried at the news, and he only found the strength to keep going thanks to his partner’s support. He told Le Quotidien TV programme last month: “I come from a rural background, we have honour. And when honour is hit like that in such an unjust way, it’s terrible.”

Veyrat maintains that he has a right to know the detailed reasoning that led the Michelin guide to demote him. He has sought to make the guide hand over the inspector’s notes and the bill to prove they had eaten at his restaurant. He also hopes the court will order Michelin to provide details on its judging criteria, its evaluation methods and how it trains the inspectors working for its restaurant guide.

The chef previously asked for his restaurant to be removed from the guide but Michelin, which says it serves its readers, would not comply.

Veyrat’s lawyers have said they hope the court in Nanterre, west of Paris, would make the Michelin guide hand over relevant documents. Veyrat is asking for a symbolic €1 (85p) in damages.

When Veyrat announced he would sue, the Michelin guide responded that the chef was merely asking for documents and this showed he had no case against them. The guide said it understood the chef’s disappointment but said its “first duty” was to inform consumers.

The Michelin guide’s lawyer, Richard Malka, told Agence France-Presse that Veyrat’s case went against the constitutional right to freedom of expression, calling it a case of “pathological egotism”. The guide is asking for €30,000 in damages.


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more