As always, the release of the French Michelin Guide prompts no end of tales of success and sob stories. The 2019 Guide promised to seek out new talent, as well as increasing the number of female chefs after poor representation in recent years.
A Star is Born
The 2019 Guide was a watershed moment for young and female chefs, with Guide director Gwendal Poullennec promising to breathe new life into the historic resource. Poullennec stressed that Michelin reviewers were not guided by any quotas, but simply sought out a more diverse range of restaurants to review.
Eleven female-led restaurants were named in the Guide – up from the two named in 2018 and far higher than the lone woman named in 2017. A record 75 new restaurants were awarded either one, two or three Michelin stars.
“It's a reflection of the great dynamism of French gastronomy, in all regions, with establishments set up by talented young people who are often entrepreneurs who have taken risks,” Poullennec said.
The Biggest Losers
While not everyone will be happy with the results, perhaps the restaurant that can feel the most miffed is Auberge de L’Ill. The small family-owned inn has been running for more than 150 years and has held three Michelin stars for the last 51. Now, however, it has been relegated back to two.
“After 51 years of three stars, I learned Sunday that I had lost the third,” said chef Marc Haeberlin, a champion of modern Alsatian cuisine who was mentored by the legendary Paul Bocuse. “It's hard for the team, it's hard for everyone – the customers, the family – it's very hard. I don't know how to explain this loss.”
Marc Veyrant, the black-hatted chef who is well known for his love of mountain ingredients, also lost his third star. While he was only awarded the top honour last year, he still slammed the decision as “unfair”.
“I'm terribly disappointed. I can't understand it at all,” he said. “I will stay combative and present with the team in my kitchen.
The Reluctant Chef
Sebastien Bras made headlines in 2017 when he ‘gave back’ the stars awarded to him by the guide, citing the “huge pressure” as the reason behind his request to be left out of the 2018 edition. At the time Michelin agreed, saying that there wasn’t much point in featuring a restaurant that didn’t want to be featured. However, his Le Suquet restaurant has been included in the 2019 guide.
Bras said that he was “surprised” to be included once again
“This contradictory decision has left us with doubts, even if in any case we no longer worry about either the stars or the strategies of the guide,” he said in a statement. “I made my position clear last year and I still feel the same – still, and more than ever, enjoying the confidence of our clients.”
Bras had been dealing with the pressure of Michelin stars since 1999, when his father first won three stars. The younger Bras felt that the expectations were too high to maintain the three stars, knowing that a single dish that didn’t match up to Michelin’s exact standards could cost him his reputation.