France is now home to 27 restaurants that have been bestowed the coveted three stars from the Michelin guide – just one more than last year's total. But it was still not enough to see France top the global table for the number of three starred Michelin eateries.
The Michelin guide revealed its treasured star awards on Monday with the newest three star restaurant to be included in the 2014 guide the Assiette Champenoise, in the town of Tinqueux, near the north eastern city of Reims.
Michelin’s judges were clearly impressed by the dishes served up by 39-year-old chef Arnaud Lallement whose grub met the requirements for a three star award of being "exceptional cuisine, worth making the trip for”.
Lallement received a standing ovation from his fellow three-star chefs at a ceremony in Paris on Monday. The chef was praised for his use of "ingredients of exceptional quality" and "recipes full of character".
Although only one more restaurant joins the elite club with three stars, there are six more eateries with two stars, bringing the total to 79 and 54 more diners with one Michelin star, meaning there are now 504 in France.
Of those included in the guide, 115 starred restaurants could offer a meal for €30 ($41) or less, it said.
However the announcement of the awards, which is normally a highlight of the French culinary calendar, was overshadowed last week, when a French food critic blasted the Michelin guide for losing the plot.
In his weekly column for Le Point magazine Gilles Pudlowski lamented Michelin’s directors “whose incompetence was uncontested”.
Since 2001, when Briton Derek Brown took charge, the Michelin guide had “lost the plot”, Pudlowksi said.
The critic also bemoaned the fact that it is run by an American – the director of international guides for Michelin Michael Ellis and a German deputy – Juliane Casper.
“Can’t they find any French people to run this guide,” he said adding that French restaurant inspectors should decide on who gets the stars not the directors of the guide.
Pudlowski’s main bone of contention is the director’s tendency to recognise young chefs over more experienced ones.
However Michelin's director of international guides Michael Ellis defended the inclusion of so many young chefs in the one star category.
He attributed the increase in younger chefs to more opportunities for them to set up on their own without taking huge financial risks.
"Young chefs now are able to find smaller structures, they are able to go out and find a place that might have 20 or 25 covers," he said.
Worldwide, Japan boasts the highest number of three-star restaurants with 28.
France is second with 27, followed by Germany with 11. There are 10 in the US, four in the UK, seven in Italy and eight in Spain.
With the rise of internet blogs and user-generated review sites like Trip Advisor questions continue to be asked about the relvance of the Michelin guides in 2014.
However American Paris-based food critic and author David Lebovitz inists they still hold a certain amount of kudos.
"A Michelin mark still signifies something and has a certain cachet," he told The Local.
"I think that it's good their inspectors still go anonymously and pay their own bills, whereas some reviewers accept free meals and in fact, let their presence be known to the restaurant. Although I don't always agree with the Michelin ratings, I think they are still highly regarded.
However Lebovitz says there are advantages to the user-generated online review sites, even if you need to dig a bit to find out if the contributor is being honest.