Senderens Renounces Michelin Laurels
But Who Owns the Stars?
It was as if a thunderbolt struck the Paris restaurant scene when Alain Senderens, one of the founding fathers of “Nouvelle Cuisine,” announced that he would return his three stars to the Michelin Guide. After having them for twenty-eight years, he said, "I want to simplify my cooking, allow myself more liberty and reduce the average check at Alain Senderens to €100. I cannot do this with the level of efforts required to maintain the three-star status."
Senderens is not the only chef to argue that he is ready to abandon the culinary limelight because the pressure is too stressing and demanding. The lesser known Alsatian chef Philippe Gaertner (Aux Armes de France in Ammerschwihr, Alsace), whose father gained his first star in 1938, also said he did not want to keep this accolade for the same reasons. “Winning or keeping a star necessitates a big investment in money and personnel, and you need a big clientele to support it.”
The wages of sixty cooks, waiters, sommeliers and maîtres d’s working in the landmark Lucas Carton, which seated eighty diners, was a major component of a meal tab that could reach €380. Even at this height, profitability is not necessarily assured. The enormous investment necessary to shine at the top explains why so many über chefs of the ilk of Alain Ducasse have brought their talent to large hotel chains that can afford the expense.
Michelin retorts: "The stars are meant to inform the readers of the guide and can only belong to the guide that presents them. Restaurateurs just cannot return them like a gift.”
Famous toque Joël Robuchon, who has two restaurants in Las Vegas, L'Atelier and The Mansion, had not wanted his Paris restaurants, L'Atelier and La Table (which has since closed), to be quoted and rated in the Michelin Guide, because "his venues do not match the outdated luxury criteria required by Michelin." But many other chefs like Guy Savoy are proud and more than desirous of retaining their stars, for the considerable impact they have on the public.
Alain Senderens, 9, place de la Madeleine, Paris 75008, 01 42 65 22 90.
(Updated: 11/05/10 BLS)