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Historic French restaurant among shock losers in 2019 Michelin Guide

A restaurant that has held three Michelin stars for half a century was pushed down a rank Monday in one of the biggest shocks of the French culinary guide for 2019.

Historic French restaurant among shock losers in 2019 Michelin Guide
Photo: Auberge de L'Ill/Google Maps

Ahead of the new edition's unveiling Monday afternoon, manager Danielle Baumann Haeberlin confirmed the bad news for the Auberge de L'Ill, calling it “a sad day for the Alsace” region where the family has run an inn for 150 years.

“After 51 years of three stars, I learned Sunday that I had lost the third,” her brother, chef Marc Haeberlin, told France 3 Alsace television.

“It's hard for the team, it's hard for everyone — the customers, the family — it's very hard,” said the chef, 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 a year ago.

Photo: Auberge de L'Ill

Haeberlin is not the only shock loser of the 2019 guide. Marc Veyrat, known as much for his ever-present wide-brimmed black hat as his love of mountain ingredients, confirmed that his Alpine restaurant the Maison des Bois had also lostits third star.

“I'm terribly 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”.

Pascal Barbot, whose Parisian restaurant l'Astrance has held three stars for 11 years, is also dropping down a notch to two stars in 2019.

The guide's new international director Gwendal Poullennec had promised to breathe new life into its pages, celebrating more female chefs and young talent.

A record 75 restaurants have earned new spots in the one, two or three star rankings in 2019, he told AFP last week.

Michelin's feared reviewers have “managed to unearth talents in all corners of France” for the new edition, he promised.

A large number of foreign chefs working in France are also set to be honoured in the full guide, due to be revealed from 1400 GMT in Paris.

The ceremony was due to pay tribute to Joel Robuchon, the giant of French cuisine who died last year. 

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RESTAURANTS

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.

 

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