French chef Marc Veyrat sues Michelin guide over star rating

French chef Marc Veyrat, holds a Michelin guide after being awarded the maximum three Michelin stars at La Seine Musicale in Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris, 5 February 2018Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Veyrat's La Maison des Bois restaurant was awarded the maximum three stars in February 2018

Celebrity French chef Marc Veyrat is suing the prestigious Michelin guide after his restaurant was stripped of the maximum three star rating.

Veyrat's La Maison des Bois (House in the Woods) in the Alps was demoted to two stars in January, less than a year after it received the accolade.

"I've been disgraced," Veyrat said, adding that the announcement had left his staff "in tears".

He earlier said food inspectors "dared to say we put cheddar in our soufflé".

The cheeses used in the dish were always French, he said on Tuesday, listing varieties such as Beaufort and Reblochon.

"I put saffron in it, and the gentleman who came thought it was cheddar because it was yellow," Veyrat told France Inter radio.

He said he had received the news in January unexpectedly.

"To have them call you one evening without warning, without anything written down, without anything, to say 'That's it, it's over'," he said.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Veyrat was fined for destroying trees near his La Maison des Bois restaurant in 2015

In an interview with French news website Le Point earlier this year, Veyrat said he had been suffering with depression since his restaurant was demoted. "How dare they take the health of cooks hostage?" he said.

The chef hopes that legal action will force Michelin guide inspectors to provide documents "to clarify the exact reasons" for their decision, his lawyer Emmanuel Ravanas told AFP news agency. A court hearing has been set for 27 November.

In a statement on Monday, Michelin said: "We understand the disappointment of Mr Veyrat, whose talent no-one disputes... we will study his requests carefully and respond."

Veyrat, who has previously obtained three star ratings at two other restaurants, asked in July for La Maison des Bois to be removed from the Michelin guide altogether. His request was denied by the guide's directors, who said they would "continue to recommend it".

The restaurant guide, originally designed for motorists looking for places to stop off and eat, said its two star rating acknowledged "excellent cooking, worth a detour", while three stars meant that it was "worth a special journey".

Media caption,
How to recover a lost Michelin star

In 2015, Veyrat was fined for razing 75,000 sq ft (7,000 sq m) of protected forest near his La Maison des Bois restaurant, on the Col de la Croix Fry mountain pass near the Swiss border.

He said at the time that it was necessary to build an educational centre for children and that he had acted with the best of intentions.