Knives are being sharpened in the elite world of French gastronomy after an acclaimed chef demanded that his restaurant, which recently lost one of its three stars, be withdrawn from the Michelin Guide – a request the publishers have refused.
In an extraordinary letter, revealed by Le Point, Marc Veyrat railed against his demotion in January, voicing his doubts that the guide's inspectors had even visited his restaurant, La Maison des Bois, in the Haute Savoie.
"I have been depressed for six months. How dare you take the health of your chefs hostage?" wrote Veyrat, who is known for his signature black hat. Veyrat denounced the "profound incompetence" of the guide's inspectors. "They dared to say that we put cheddar in our souffle of reblochon, beaufort and tomme! They have insulted our region; my employees were furious," he said, according to Le Monde. "When we have eggs from our chickens, milk from our cows, and two botanists collect our plants every morning!"
When Gordon Ramsay was stripped of a Michelin star at his New York restaurant, he compared the experience to losing a girlfriend and losing the Champions League.
In an interview with Lyon Capitale, Veyrat said the inspectors "know absolutely nothing about cooking! … Let them put on an apron and get in the kitchen! We are waiting. Let them show us what they know how to do ... The Michelin, they're basically amateurs. They couldn't cook a decent dish," he said.
Veyrat also demanded to be shown the bills from the inspectors’ visit. “You should be able to find that evidence,” he wrote to the publishers. “You are impostors who only want clashes, for commercial reasons.”
The guide's international director Gwendal Poullennec told Le Monde that despite Veyrat's request, his restaurant would not be withdrawn. "If the establishment remains open and our inspectors judge it to be at the level of one of our distinctions, we will continue to recommend it," he said.
In 2018, French chef Sebastien Bras asked for his restaurant Le Suquet to be withdrawn from the guide, saying he did not want to cook under the "huge pressure" of a potential inspection. His request was initially met – but this January, Le Suquet was re-listed, this time with two stars rather than three.
Poullennec added that just because Veyrat did not see the guide’s famously discreet inspectors, it did not mean they had not visited. “The inspectors visit tables anonymously around the world. They pay their bills like any other client,” he said. “Marc Veyrat is a chef of great talent who has trained exceptional chefs, a major figure in French gastronomy. We are sorry to hear of the pain he is going through, but we will continue to recommend his restaurant.”
Eating at La Maison des Bois, which has a view of Mont Blanc, is described on Veyrat’s website as equivalent to “a veritable pastoral and mineral symphony in which nature’s bounty is displayed in each and every dish”. The “starry celebration” menu, priced at €395, offers dishes including “illusion” of caviar with trout eggs and “king prawns cooked in spruce bark”. The restaurant has its own botanical gardens, vegetable gardens and orchards, raises its own cows, chickens and freshwater fish, and makes its own bread and cider.
The Michelin write-up of La Maison des Bois remains glowing. The restaurant is, it says, "worth the detour", with an "exceptional cuisine" – the best example of which is the "balade" in the woods "where flavours burst, escape, between herby notes, sap of fir and mushrooms". The only downside, the write-up notes, is the price.
Despite Veyrat’s anger at being accused of using cheddar, no mention is made in the guide of the variety of cheese used in the souffle. – Guardian