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

1st February 2016, Comments 0 comments

France's Michelin guide gave the country's most famous chef a much-prized third star and stripped him of another Monday as the restaurant world reeled after the apparent suicide of the "world's best chef" Benoit Violier.

Alain Ducasse, 59, picked up the highest rating for his restaurant at Paris' swish Plaza Athenee hotel while he lost a star for another of his tables in the French capital at the equally opulent Le Meurice hotel.

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

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

Loiseau's widow Dominique said Monday she was "shocked" by the decision to reduce the Relais Bernard Loiseau to two stars.

- Ramsay loses out -

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 also found with his hunting rifle by his side.

Violier had held onto his three Michelin stars for the Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville at Crissier when its Swiss guide was published in November.

Even so, his death cast a shadow on the announcement of the new French guide, the biggest day in the country's gastronomic calendar.

The big winners this year were luxury hotels in the capital, with chef Christian Le Squer bringing a third star to the George V, a stone's throw from Ducasse's Plaza Athenee outpost.

The guide's US-born international director Michael Ellis praised Ducasse for his "brave decision to come up with a style of cooking based around the idea of 'naturalness'" at the hotel, while he described Le Squer as "a real virtuoso.

"Every dish by Christian Le Squer is a real work of art, a shining example of what French gastronomy does best," he added.

While Ducasse has built a global restaurant brand on the reputation he has won in France, the British-based World Best Restaurant list has been sceptical of his genius.

- Merry-go-round -

His Plaza Athenee restaurant languishes at 47th in its rankings, although the alternative French-based La Liste -- which claims a more scientific basis for its ranking system -- placed his Monaco restaurant Louis XV as the world's 17th best.

Beyond the merry-go-round among the elite club of 26 three-star restaurants, the biggest shake-up was the inclusion of ten new two-star and 42 new one-star restaurants making the grade.

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.

The youngest new entry into the hallowed guide was 23-year-old Angelo Ferrigno, chef of the Maison des Cariatides at Dijon in eastern France.


© 2016 AFP

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