Michelin boss defends battered 'Red Bible'

8th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 8 (AFP) - The head of the French tyre company Michelin has defended the group's food bible from mounting criticism saying its role is not to make or break top chefs, but to provide a stimulating restaurant guide.

PARIS, June 8 (AFP) - The head of the French tyre company Michelin has defended the group's food bible from mounting criticism saying its role is not to make or break top chefs, but to provide a stimulating restaurant guide.  

"We are open to any improvements. But if we give more guidelines, then we would become consultants," Edouard Michelin, managing director of the Michelin group, said in a rare interview with a group of food writers.  

"People would say to chefs 'that's what we have to do' and we would be doing the opposite of our fundamental objective ... which is to offer a reliable selection," he added.  

Michelin's rating system established in 1926 was rounded on after chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide in 2003 just days after his three-starred La Cote D'Or restaurant was downgraded by another French guide.  

A coveted three-star Michelin rating is a virtually a blank cheque for success for the lucky restaurant with French as well as foreign food-lovers lining up for a table.  

Conversely the loss of even one star can spell financial ruin, sparking criticism that the system puts chefs under tremendous strain.  

Obviously the guide is a reference book which carries with it certain "responsibilities", said Michelin, but it is also an "institution which like any institution is capable of unleashing strong passions."  

He refused the notion that the guide should be made the scapegoat in Loiseau's suicide, stressing "we are not the makers or breakers of chefs."  

"We don't want to be an institution with a mythology surrounding it as we have been accused of, driving chefs chasing the three stars to make huge investments or to stay at that level," he added.  

"What the guide is most interested in is the dish.  

"The Michelin guide is a service which is regularly adapted to take into consideration what people like and what restaurants offer. It pushes people to go out and clearly stimulates the profession."  

The 42-year-old who has been at the head of the family firm, the world's number one tyre group, since 1999, said the rating system used by the guide was extremely modern.  

He was answering criticism by a former Michelin inspector Pascal Remy who publicly denounced the guide's methodology in a book saying there were too few inspectors to carry out the work.  

That was followed by another scandal earlier this year when the Benelux Red Guide 2005 had to be withdrawn for including rave reviews of a restaurant which had not even opened for business.  

A final slap in the face was delivered last month, when one of France's most famous chefs, Alain Senderens, gave up his three stars at his chic Paris restaurant saying he wanted to create a less snobbish dining experience.  

"If a chef decides to hang up his apron or to take up painting that's fine, but the idea of giving back the stars is ridiculous" because they don't belong to him, Michelin shot back.  

He also had little time for those chefs, such as Joel Robuchon, once named France's "chef of the century", who has refused to allow his two restaurants in Paris and Monaco to figure in the guide which he has slammed as being behind the times.  

"We reserve the right to our own judgement. We decide on the listings in our guide even if we have respected requests from several chefs not to be included.  

"In the future however, we will include all those establishments which merit being included."  

He also dismissed criticism that there were not enough inspectors, saying that the 70 employed to track down Europe's gastronomic top spots was "a good number".  

"Our responsibility is to work discreetly, not to play with the chefs, and to take our time to ensure an address is reliable," Michelin said, adding that those restaurants with stars were subjected to regular visits.  

A fan of Japanese cooking, Michelin said French gastronomy could be more diverse and creative.  

"What we love to see is greater diversity, diversity in products from the most expensive to the humblest, from the most creative cooking to country kitchens."



Subject: French News

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