‘Cheddargate’: Michelin brands celebrity chef a narcissistic diva

Contrary to popular belief, decor, service, and ambiance hold no sway when it comes to a restaurant being listed in the Michelin guide; they're judged on food quality alone.
Contrary to popular belief, decor, service, and ambiance hold no sway when it comes to a restaurant being listed in the Michelin guide; they're judged on food quality alone.
Image: Frederic Stevens/Getty Images

A French celebrity chef has been branded a diva for taking the Michelin guide to court for suggesting he used cheddar cheese in a souffle.

In a case that could have far-reaching consequences for restaurant critics, chef Marc Veyrat is claiming he was “dishonoured” by the red guide when it stripped his flagship restaurant in the French Alps of its coveted third star in January.

Dubbed “Cheddargate” by wags, he claimed that an “incompetent” Michelin inspector mistakenly thought he had adulterated a souffle with the much-maligned English cheese instead of using France’s Reblochon, Beaufort and Tomme varieties.

It is the first time that a chef has sued the guide, the most prestigious in the world.

If Veyrat wins the case, and forces Michelin to hand over its secret judging notes, it could cause an earthquake in the restaurant world, potentially setting a precedent for other disgruntled chefs.

Veyrat, 69, made his name with “botanical” cooking using wild herbs gathered in his native Haute Savoie region.

He said the Michelin review nearly broke him, sending him into an eight-month depression, and leaving his cooks in tears.

But Michelin hit back, branding Veyrat a “narcissistic diva” suffering from “pathological egotism”.

Veyrat said the case, which opened before a judge in Paris   on Wednesday, was a matter of honour for him.

“That they said that my souffle was full of cheddar ... and that they took “my virtual scallops” to be real coquilles Saint-Jacques when they were made from a base of burbot (fish) livers from Lake Geneva shows a lack of competence,” he said.

But Michelin’s lawyers were withering in response.

“The court is not there to protect men’s vanity,” barrister Richard Malka said.

“Mr Veyrat wants France to abandon the principle that restaurant critics should have the freedom to have an opinion because his restaurant has two stars rather than three — because [La Maison des Bois] was judged to be just excellent rather than brilliant.”

Veyrat is demanding symbolic damages of 1€ (about R16). Michelin is countersuing for €30,000 (R486,000) in costs and compensation. — AFP

 

X