Early indications of the annual Michelin Guide were released on Monday, rewarding some chefs with the prestigious stars while disappointing others.

"/> Early indications of the annual Michelin Guide were released on Monday, rewarding some chefs with the prestigious stars while disappointing others.

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Nervous chefs get Michelin report card

Early indications of the annual Michelin Guide were released on Monday, rewarding some chefs with the prestigious stars while disappointing others.

Nervous chefs get Michelin report card
Sarah Ackerman

The 2012 Michelin Guide for France will go on sale on March 1st, but media was reporting some of the winners and losers on Monday morning. 

The annual guide, first published in 1900, promoted just one restaurant to the elite band of 26 holding the coveted three-star ranking.

This was the Flocons de Sel restaurant in the southern town of Megève, run by Emmanuel Renault.

44-year-old Renault has worked in prestigious restaurants in France and the UK, including the Crillon in Paris and Claridge’s in London.

Diners at Renault’s restaurant can enjoy a nine-course menu for €147 ($198) or a six-course lunch menu for €77.

 Ten restaurants were awarded the two-star honour while a further 58 were given their first taste of one-star fame.

As always, the Guide brought disappointments for some. Two restaurants were downgraded from two stars to one reported Le Monde newspaper; the Jardin des Sens des Frères Pourcel in Montpellier and La Madeleine in Sens.

A further 37 restaurants lost their single stars.

The Michelin Guide is nervously awaited by restaurant owners each year with its promises of stardom for some and disappointment for others.

In 2003, one Michelin-starred chef, Bernard Loiseau, was even believed to have taken his own life when he discovered he might be downgraded from three stars to two, although doubt was cast on this version of events by later accounts.

The prestigious ranking has kept its hold on attitudes towards restaurants, despite some criticism of how it operates. 

A 2003 book by a former Michelin inspector said the Guide had become lax in its standards.

“L’Inspecteur Se Met A Table” (“The Inspector Sits Down At The Table”), by Pascal Rémy, described the job as a lonely and dreary succession of restaurant visits under intense pressure to file reports. 

He also alleged that Michelin had too few inspectors to cover all 4,000 reviewed restaurants in France every 18 months, as the company claims.

Michelin denied the accusations and insisted its standards were as high as ever.

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Michelin unveils Covid-era France picks despite criticism

The Michelin Guide reveals Monday its annual pick of France's top restaurants despite criticism over its decision to hold the awards while establishments remain closed in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michelin unveils Covid-era France picks despite criticism
Auberge du Pont de Collonges. Photo: AFP

Three-star chefs can rest easy, however, after Michelin said none will be demoted as the health crisis rages.

The industry bible's boss Gwendal Poullennec defended inspections that led to 57 new stars overall, even though restaurants remain shuttered after lockdowns imposed last spring and again since October.

“It's an important decision to support the industry, despite the current situation and perhaps even because of the situation,” Poullennec told AFP.

“All the establishments that have kept their star this year or won one are restaurants that fully deserve it,” he said.

READ MORE: Michelin calls off its 2021 France ceremony, but insists there will still be a guide

Michelin has drawn fire for bestowing its verdicts as chefs rack up losses while adapting their menus for takeaway or deliveries — and food fans have little chance of booking tables anytime soon, with or without face masks.

The rival Best 50 list, based in Britain, cancelled its 2020 ranking last year, while France's La Liste said this month that instead of rankings it would honour innovative chefs who have persevered amid the pandemic.

Michelin called off the lavish gala ceremony that was to be held in Cognac, southwest France – the first time outside Paris – and instead will announce the 2021 winners in a YouTube broadcast from the Eiffel Tower.

'Consistent quality'

But Poullennec said all three-star restaurants will keep their stars – France including Monaco counts 29 – while the handful of demotions will affect only restaurants that have closed or changed their dining concept.

He insisted that inspectors worked double duty and even cancelled their sacrosanct summer holidays to eat and drink as much as possible when restaurants were allowed to open under strict virus restrictions between France's lockdowns.

Michelin also brought in inspectors from elsewhere in Europe and even Asia to back up the French team.

“This selection has been made with the same serious attention, and inspectors were able to judge as many meals as the previous year,” he said.

“Despite the difficulties, chefs have risen to the occasion and maintained consistent quality, at times even succeeding in making further progress,” he added.

Poullennec, who took over the guide in 2018, has overseen several choices that have raised eyebrows among chefs and foodies alike.

Last year Michelin shocked industry insiders by downgrading the Auberge du Pont de Collonges — the oldest three-starred restaurant in the world — after the death of its legendary chef Paul Bocuse.

And in January 2019, Marc Veyrat became the first chef to sue the famous red guidebook after it withdrew the third star for his French Alps restaurant La Maison des Bois just a year after it was awarded.

Veyrat, who lost his case, has said he never wants to see a Michelin inspector in any of his restaurants ever again.