Written by David J Constable
With yesterday’s announcement of France’s winners and losers in the coveted little red book, came as much applause as it made tears. Still very much considered to be the most successful and prestigious restaurant guidebook in the world, the Michelin Guide has risen to gastronomic bible status, a hefty on-the-road manual spawning legions of checklist gourmands. In doing so, the guide has both blighted and elevated the lives of chefs.
One of the biggest shocks of the French culinary guide for 2019, was Auberge de L’Ill losing its third star, an accolade the famed Alsace restaurant held for 51 years. “It’s hard for the team, it’s hard for everyone – the customers, the family – it’s very hard,” said Chef Marc Haeberlin, a champion of contemporary Alsatian cuisine. “I don’t know how to explain this loss,” said Haeberlin, whose culinary mentor, the legendary chef Paul Bocuse, died last year.
Another shocking announcement was Maison des Bois losing its third star. Chef Marc Veyrat – known as much for his wide-brimmed black hat as his love of mountain ingredients – confirmed that his Alpine restaurant had fallen from three to two stars. “I’m disappointed. I can’t understand it at all,” said Veyrat, who only earned the third-star last year. “I will stay combative and present with the team in my kitchen,” Veyrat said, blasting the decision as “unfair”. Chef Pascal Barbot, whose Parisian restaurant l’Astrance has held three stars for 11 years, also dropped down a notch to two stars in the 2019 guide.
More shock news occurred as it was announced that two-stars had been awarded back to Le Suquet, located in the Aveyron region, the restaurant operated by Chef Sebastian Bras who famously asked to have his stars returned in 2017. The guide left the three-star restaurant out of the 2018 publication only to award them with two-stars in the 2019 release. The chef admitted to being “surprised” to see the restaurant back in the 2019 guide having cited the “huge pressure” that came with Michelin recognition when he asked in 2017 for his three-star restaurant to be left out of the 2018 guide.
Meanwhile, a record 75 restaurants earned new spots in the one, two or three-star rankings, an expected increase given the guide’s new international director Gwendal Poullennec had promised to breathe new life into its pages, celebrating more female chefs and young talent. Eleven female-led restaurants were awarded, among them 24-year-old Chef Julia Sedefdjian, who won a star for her new restaurant Baieta in Paris, and Chef Stephanie Le Quellec, who claimed her second for the Parisian restaurant La Scene. “This year, more than any other, the MICHELIN Guide France is demonstrating a gastronomic France that excels on all fronts,” says Poullenec. “From remarkable regional dynamism to showcasing new talented youngsters, and to an unprecedented number of new star-studded restaurants led by women, the 2019 vintage shines brightly in many ways”.
The biggest celebratory news of the evening, however, was the award of three-stars to Chef Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur in Menton and Chef Laurent Petit of Clos des Sens restaurant in Annecy-le-Vieux. Born in Argentina, Colagreco becomes the only foreign chef in France to hold three-stars. “So many emotions. Thank you! I’m so honoured,” the chef told the audience at the awards ceremony in Paris. Colagreco continued, “How can I begin to express such overwhelming emotion and gratitude! Gratitude firstly towards my team for their dedication over the years; gratitude towards my family, for their sacrifice and support; gratitude towards our loyal guests for their continued support; gratitude towards our local purveyors providing us with the best products of the region; gratitude towards Michelin and their guide for recognising our work from the beginning; and finally gratitude towards France — a country where I chose to express myself, that adopted me, transmitting its values of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.