French restaurant guide to include lockdown response in 2021 listings

With many of Europe's restaurants closed and likely to remain so for some time, inspectors have been left with little to do.

But France's most famous restaurant guides insist that they will still be producing 2021 editions, albeit with a few changes.

The Gault & Millau guides say they will be highlighting lockdown responses, social distancing measures and the social conscience of chefs in next year's edition – as well as the more usual categories for food, wine and service.

Gault & Millau said it was time to stand by and support restaurants who are “in great danger”.

READ ALSO How to support your favourite French restaurant through the coronavirus crisis

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The 2021 Gault & Millau guide will be a little different, say bosses. Photo: AFP

Its director Jacques Bally said they have shelved their chef, pastry chef and sommelier wine waiter of the year awards, but the 2021 guide will appear as normal in October.

With drastic social distancing measures in restaurants likely when they do reopen, “our responsibility as a guide is to highlight what is being done and what possibly can be done,” Bally told AFP.

“The next 18 months are going to be extremely difficult and dangerous for restaurants,” he warned.

The guide is also going to spotlight chefs who have shown a social conscience during the crisis as well as those who have experimented with click and collect, oven-ready meals or even starred chefs offering to go to their customers homes and cook for them.

The guide's main rival, Michelin, is taking a more traditional approach, saying that it is business as usual, with new director Gwendal Poullennec saying that great chefs “have not lost their talent during the lockdowns”.

READ ALSO French chef sues Michelin over claims he used Cheddar cheese in soufflé

Bars, cafés and restaurants in France remain closed. Photo: AFP

“They have been innovating and creating new recipes,” he told AFP, adding that his inspectors were chomping at the bit “with impatience and an appetite to try them out when restaurants reopen.”

Yet with only 13 percent of Michelin-starred restaurants open across 32 countries, the guide's critics and rivals have questioned the move, with chefs who have already lost millions in custom also worried about losing their precious stars.

La Liste, which produces an annual guide to the top 1,000 restaurants in the world, also hinted that innovation would be the key to good rankings for 2021.

Jorg Zipprick, the co-founder of La Liste, which as the guide of guides sees itself as the most scientific ranking of the world's best 1,000 restaurants, said even big-name chefs will have to re-imagine what they are doing.

“However, those who accept to rethink their formula might find themselves among the winners,” he added.

In France all bars, restaurants and cafés were ordered to close on March 15th, two days before the strict nationwide lockdown began.

They remain closed until at least June, when it is hoped that they might be able to reopen in the 'green zones' of the country which are less affected by coronavirus. At the present time this would not include Paris.

Representative of the hospitality industry, which employs 1 million people in France, have sounded the alarm, saying that up to 40 percent of cafés, bars and restaurants may never reopen after the prolonged closure.

The French government is working on a package of measures to aid the industry including tax relief.

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