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Furious French chef ‘insulted’ by Michelin’s claims he used Cheddar in his soufflé

Flamboyant French chef Marc Veyrat has railed against Michelin, demanding that his top restaurant be withdrawn from the guide, after telling AFP that its inspectors claimed he had used English Cheddar cheese in his soufflé.

Furious French chef 'insulted' by Michelin's claims he used Cheddar in his soufflé
Chef Marc Veyrat. Photo: AFP

Veyrat, who lost one of the maximum three stars for his La Maison des Bois restaurant in the French Alps in January, said the loss had plunged him into a six-month-long depression.

“How dare you take your chefs' health hostage?” he seethed in a blistering letter to the guide, regarded as the bible of haute cuisine.

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Veyrat in his Alpine garden in Haute Savoie. Photo: AFP

Veyrat, 69, took particular umbrage at inspectors “daring to say that I put Cheddar in our soufflé of (local) Reblochon, Beaufort and Tomme (cheeses).

“They have insulted my region,” he told AFP on Wednesday. “My employees were furious.

“We only use the eggs from our own hens, the milk is from our own cows and we have two botanists out every morning collecting herbs,” the horrified chef declared.

Veyrat, who made his name with his so-called “botanical” cooking, using wild herbs gathered around his restaurants in his native Haute Savoie region, denounced the “profound incompetence” of the guide's famously rigorous inspectors.

“You are impostors,” he fumed, “who only want (to stir up) clashes for your own commercial reasons.”

“We are pulling our restaurant out of the Michelin,” he said.

But the iconic red guide said on Thursday that it would not withdraw its listing, despite Veyrat travelling to the French capital to confront its editors face to face.

“Michelin guide inspectors visit restaurants across the world anonymously. They pay their bills like every other customer,” said its new director Gwendal Poullennec, who disputed a claim by Veyrat that the inspectors may not have eaten at his table.

The chef, who is instantly recognisable in France for his signature wide-brimmed black Savoyard hat, had also claimed that a new generation at the head of the guide were trying to make their names by attacking the pillars of French cuisine.

Veyrat – who won back the top rating only last year – was forced to give up cooking a decade ago after a serious skiing accident.

Then La Maison des Bois burned down four years ago as he tried to make a comeback.

But in 2018 he finally landed the coveted third star, the summit of culinary achievement, for the alpine establishment, declaring that he had felt  “like an orphan when I wasn't in the Michelin”.

A self-taught master who has spent most of his life cooking in his home village of Manigod 1,600 metres (5,200 feet) up the Alps near Annecy, Veyrat has twice been given the maximum 20 out of 20 score by the rival Gault Millau guide.

Member comments

  1. Oh dear, another precious French cook.Under the circumstance of his professed cooking criteria I can appreciate that he felt insulted by the suggestion that he used English cheddar. Truth be known, it might well have been better with cheddar. French cheeses by and large don’t cook very well.

  2. There are still chefs in France? 45 years ago, eating in France was an experience. Today, if it’s not in the freezer, forget it.

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Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

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The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!

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