Last year, Paris chef Alain Senderens made it clear he had had enough of Michelin and its stars. He closed Lucas Carton, which held three stars in the French edition of the dining guide, and reopened the restaurant in September as the more informal Senderens. He told reporters he was tired of the expense and pressure of trying to maintain Michelin's highest ranking. He got his wish--sort of.
Michelin announced its ratings for the 2006 edition this week, and Senderens is listed, but with only two stars. At the same time, Brittany chef Olivier Roellinger received the welcome news that Michelin had given three stars to his restaurant, Les Maisons de Bricourt, located in Cancale, near Mont-Saint-Michel. Roellinger held two stars for 18 years.
Roellinger's restaurant was listed in the 2005 guide as a rising star, a new designation introduced last year. "The most important criteria--the most difficult--is consistency, and this year he was consistent throughout the year," said Jean-Luc Naret, director of Michelin's guides division.
Les Maisons de Bricourt was the only new three-star. Michelin added six new two-star and 50 one-star restaurants to its 2006 France guide, which reaches bookstores on March 1. Among the downgrades is Paris' historic La Tour d'Argent, which went from two to one. This year's rising stars include two hotel restaurants in Paris, Les Ambassadeurs in the Hôtel de Crillon and Le Meurice, both of which have two stars. Their chefs could join the highest echelon in 2007.
Michelin's Red Guides, which the tire company first published as a giveaway in 1900, have been treated as the gastronomic bible by many foodies for decades. But they have come under fire in recent years, with critics arguing that the company plays favorites and that it only awards top rankings to classically formal, white-tablecloth French restaurants. In 2004, a Michelin inspector wrote a tell-all book sharply critical of the rating process.
Famed Parisian chef Joël Robuchon, whose restaurants also include Robuchon a Galera in Macao (a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner), had asked Michelin to withdraw his stars. But the 2006 guide awarded one star to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon and promoted La Table de Joël Robuchon from one to two. "We're not doing this for the chefs," said Naret. "We're doing it for the customers."