Michelin crowns Paris hotels under cloud of top chef's suicide

Two of Paris’ ritziest dining establishments received the ultimate consecration Monday when they joined the select list of three-star restaurants in the 2016 Michelin Guide, the little red guide to the great and the good of French gastronomy. Chef Alain Ducasse regained a third star for his restaurant inside the Plaza Athenee hotel, while Christian […]

Two of Paris’ ritziest dining establishments received the ultimate consecration Monday when they joined the select list of three-star restaurants in the 2016 Michelin Guide, the little red guide to the great and the good of French gastronomy.

Chef Alain Ducasse regained a third star for his restaurant inside the Plaza Athenee hotel, while Christian Le Squer gained a coveted triple star for Le Cinq, his restaurant in the George V hotel.

The awards ceremony on Paris’ chic Place Vendome began with a minute of silence for three-star chef Benoit Violier, who was found dead Sunday in his Swiss home of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

The guide’s international director, Michael Ellis, said Ducasse’s cuisine “offers an unprecedented marriage of flavors and shakes up the codes of haute gastronomy.”

But with the pressure top chefs face highlighted by the death of French-born Violier on Sunday – just two months after his Swiss restaurant was named the best in the world – the guide raised eyebrows by stripping a star from another restaurant whose founder had also killed himself.

Bernard Loiseau shot himself with his hunting rifle in 2003 after another guide, the Gault & Millau, lowered the rating of his renowned establishment in the Burgundy region.

Loiseau’s widow Dominique said Monday she was “shocked and disappointed” by the decision to reduce the Relais Bernard Loiseau to two Michelin stars after 25 years at the top of the table.

But the guide’s US-born international director Michael Ellis defended his inspectors’ judgement. “It was a difficult decision but it is part of the job,” he said. “We made numerous visits to be absolutely sure…. I hope the Relais Bernard Loiseau gets the star back as soon as possible.

Big name British chef Gordon Ramsay’s Trianon restaurant at Versailles was also downgraded, dropping to just one star. Police are still investigating the circumstances of Violier’s death near Lausanne in Switzerland. Like Loiseau, he was found with his hunting rifle by his side.

Several of France’s greatest chefs have pulled out of the Michelin in the past, claiming the pressure it puts on them and their staff was too great.

Ellis said the guide’s feared army of anonymous inspectors notorious for punishing the slightest slippage in its exacting standards, had found French gastronomy to be in rude good health.

Paris – long criticised for the quality and value for money of its cuisine in comparison to the provinces – has made particular progress, he claimed. “Of the 380 tables that have entered the guide for the first time, 100 are in Paris. It is proof that the city is more than ever a place where chefs want to cook,” he said.

Source: art & life

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