Stars and a Kingdom?
A Star Can Make Them Happy, But Not Necessarily Wealthy
the French are all ears for the many candidates for
the Presidency of their Republic and passionate about
the upcoming elections next March, the food establishment
is abuzz with another question: who is in and who
is out of the club of triple-starred ones as proclaimed
by the undisclosed jury selected by the famous tire
year, five new members are admitted, among them a
woman, which is not that common in a rather macho
world: Anne-Sophie Pic from Maison
Pic in Valence (near Lyon) is only the fourth French
woman ever to be receive three stars. She is also
the only female chef in Michelin's 2007 edition. The
other lucky recipients are Jacques Lameloise
in Chagny (Burgundy); and in Paris: Yannick
Alléno at Le
Chefs of France); Pascal Barbot (L'Astrance);
and Frédéric Anton (Le
Pré Catelan), while two others get an F
and return to the lower grades: Both Alain Solivérès
and Philippe Legendre (Le
Cinq) lost a star this year.
the end of the day, will it really matter? It used
to, but probably not as much today—not only
because the world has changed and maybe France is
no longer the culinary centre of universe, but also
because there’s a silent but rising rebellion
against the tire makers’ dictates—although
Guide’s boss was all smiles among a slew
of über-chefs from all over at the late Bocuse’s
birthday party when he turned 81 earlier this month.
others still ponder over Bernard
Loiseau’s death and still question whether
his suicide was caused by the pressures exerted on
him, the fear of the potential loss of a star. That
would mean that maybe the stakes are too high, that
not everyone can play that game and that the rules
should be better defined. The so called "revelations"
of a former inspector with allegations that all establishments
were not visited every year, even if that was not
clearly proven nor denied caused some interrogations.
This is probably only bad-mouthing, trifle and negligible.
is cruder: a star would in the past boost business
by twenty percent. Not anymore. Explanation: it’s
the economy, stupid! That was true also for Bernard
Loiseau, who had invested left and right, above his
reasonable capacities. Food writer Jean-Claude Ribaut
explains: Remember what Alain
Senderens of Lucas Carton did a couple years ago.
Stating the amount of investment necessitated to reach
and mostly to stay at the three-star level versus
the monetary return, he and his accountants decided
to write to Michelin: “Thank you, but no thank
you. Keep your stars, I don’t want them.”
Renounces Michelin Laurels) He probably also had
in mind that Pierre
Gagnaire, who in Saint Etienne had bent backwards
to get his stars, spent so much money in the wrong
place at the wrong time to only succeed in going belly
up. Fortunately, he was able to recover in Paris.
other sad story is that of Marc
Meneau at L’Espérance in Vézelay.
When he lost his third star in 1999, he told us: “It’s
like losing a child.” Meneau retrieved his three-star
status in 2004, but that did not help much. He is
now in bankruptcy, awaiting court decision.
world has changed for sure. Ferran
Adrià in Spain is a well-known cook promoting
so-called molecular cuisine and doing his best to
deconstruct if you prefer—the
product. Meanwhile, Philippe Rochat in Crissier near
Lausanne does everything to preserve the quintessential
nature of the ingredients. What do these two have
in common and what can one, two, or three stars tell
us about the value for our palates of such extremely
we like it or not, the world is global. Tire manufacturing
can adjust to these new borders or rather, lack of
borders, with a little—or not so little—bit
It might very well be trickier for gastronomy. What
does a star or the absence of a star mean for an arrow’s
nest or a shark’s fin in our bowl?
what about Senderens?
is fine, thank you. He is now booked solid and has
never made so much money. They were so vexed that
despite his refusal to accept their stars, they gave
him two of them, compliments of Michelin, no hard