French chef fails in Michelin lawsuit over lost star

A French court on Tuesday rejected a lawsuit brought by a star chef seeking to force the prestigious Michelin restaurant guide to hand over its reasons for stripping his restaurant of a third star, just a year after he won it.

The court in Nanterre, outside Paris, said in a verdict that Marc Veyrat had offered no "proof showing the existence of any damage" caused by guide's demotion of his Maison des Bois in the Alps to a two-star rating in January 2019.

Veyrat, 69, wanted the court to force Michelin to hand over its judging notes – a ruling that could have upended the world of fine dining by opening the door to lawsuits from other disgruntled chefs.

After his demotion, Veyrat demanded a meeting with Michelin's international director Gwendal Poullennec, who had been appointed just a few months before the 2019 listings.

The chef said he was told a scallop's texture was "cottony" – Veyrat says it was in fact a dish of local fish – and accused of using English Cheddar cheese in a souffle.

After asking Michelin to remove his restaurant from the guide altogether – which it refused – Veyrat took them to court. Veyrat had sought a symbolic one euro in damages, not least over his claimed depression after losing the star.

"If they had told me, 'Mr Veyrat, your cooking is not as good as before', I would accept it. I respect the Michelin guide, so I'd say 'Amen, we will do what's necessary'," he told AFP after the ruling.

"But these are unbelievable criteria" for judging, he said, adding that he was considering whether to appeal.

Michelin's lawyers denounced the court challenge as an attempt to infringe on the freedom to criticize a "narcissistic diva" and demanded 30,000 euros (nearly 34,000 U.S. dollars) in damages and compensation.

At a November court hearing, Malka argued that Michelin guides are for clients, "and are not owned by chefs."

The court did not grant any of the damages sought by Veyrat or Michelin.

The self-taught Veyrat has spent most of his life cooking in his home village of Manigod 1,600 meters up the Alps near Annecy.

Just days before the November hearing, Veyrat was named one of the 10 immortals of haute cuisine by the rival French Gault & Millau guide, alongside legends like Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy.

(With input from AFP)

(Cover image: Illustration pictures with the 2018 Michelin Guide during Michelin Award ceremony 2018 at Philharmonie De Paris in Paris, France, February 5, 2018.)