Paul Bocuse: The Michelin Guide Strikes Back

Published: 2020/01/20
By now anyone who loves French food has heard the earth-shattering news that Paul Bocuse’s restaurant lost their coveted third star that they’ve held for an unprecedented 55 years straight. Despite my deep appreciation for the life and legacy of Paul Bocuse I am not completely surprised, though probably not for the reasons you think.


Before I go too far, I must confess I am a classicist. I prefer eating dishes like civet de lapin, blanquette de veau, or bouillabaisse to the sometimes-bizarre combinations I have witnessed in many of France’s modern temples of gastronomy. I am all for change, but a change still rooted in tradition.

For many years if not decades, the Guide Michelin has struggled to remain relevant with foodies. In many cases they have diluted the brand to be more inclusive.

Famous chefs are turning in their Michelin stars

Marco Pierre White famously lamented that “today they dish out stars like confetti. What does Michelin mean anymore?” Perhaps the Michelin Guide deserves to fade away just like the absurdly lengthy epoch of France’s dominance over global restaurant cuisine.

Bocuse in Lyon

In Lyon, Paul Bocuse is everywhere (c) F. Crouzet – This Is Lyon

Many famous chefs like Alain Senderens, Olivier Douet, and Sebastien Bras are turning in their stars, hoping never to be reviewed again. Chef Bras added “Today we want to proceed with a free spirit and without stress, to offer a cuisine and service that represents that spirit and our land.” Many chefs allude to the stresses that has caused a few chefs to sadly take their own lives.

Others want to step away from the pressures and constraints of perfection to cook simpler, more approachable food. Senderens mentioned that he wanted to have fun and no longer feed his ego.

“The Guide Michelin is losing its relevance”

Still other critics complain the Guide Michelin is nothing more than a guide for wealthy middle-aged white males who love only one style of food. TV personality Andrew Zimmern adds “if you’re going to start talking about the world’s best, I think you have to start making the effort to expand your reach, because leaving off thousands and thousands from consideration that I can tell you personally are equal or better than a lot of those is confusing for people. What’s extremely hurtful is the way ethnicity, ethnocentrism, and sexism plays out in those spaces.”

Paul Bocuse

Paul Bocuse (1926-2018)

The Guide Michelin is losing its relevance and appears to be desperately grasping at anything to stay in the limelight. Who can forget Cheddar Gate in 2019 where chef Marc Veyrat lost a star after being accused of the grave sin of using English cheddar in his cheese souffle instead of the traditional Reblochon and Beaufort?

Chef Veyrat sued claiming his reputation was tarnished. The guide countered with a suit for 30,000 euros in retaliation. Veyrat lost his case and denounced Michelin completely.

Paul Bocuse restaurant loses three-star rating after 55 years

‘Il ne faut pas crachers dans le soupe.’ (You don’t spit in the soup.) – Paul Bocuse

Now Michelin has attacked the legacy of Monsieur Paul, the very symbol of French gastronomy. I suppose none of us should question this; Paul has passed, and the restaurant is a period piece. I do not think anyone would dispute those facts.

Bocuse restaurant

Famous Paul Bocuse restaurant in Collonges au Mont d’or near Lyon

I feel the Michelin guide should have been cognizant of the hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, like myself, that felt a deep sense of loss when Bocuse passed. Many people like myself flew to France to pay homage by indulging in a great meal at Auberge du Pont de Collonges. It felt as though the Bocuse family kept the restaurant unchanged allowing for those who wanted to pay our respect and in tribute to the life of a great chef.

“Michelin stars have to be earned, not inherited.”

The announcement comes at the two-year anniversary of Paul’s death. The Michelin Guides director, Gwendal Poullennec, flatly proclaimed “Michelin stars have to be earned, not inherited.”

Predictably critics of the guide erupted in a chorus of complaints. Paul Bocuse’s son Jerome said it was a heavy blow that would be difficult to measure. President Emmanuel Macron stated, “I want to spare a thought for what his family represents, for all those he trained, and that cannot take away from the unique role of Paul Bocuse in French gastronomy.”

Chef Georges Blanc tweeted “I am sad for the team that took up the torch at Collonges.” Even Lyon mayor Gerard Collomb chimed in with his “immense disappointment.

New menu and tasting experience to come at Paul Bocuse

Many others including food critic Perico Legasse accused the guide of trying to create media hype. The South China Morning Post wrote that Chef Veyrat “had “lost faith” in a new generation of Michelin editors he accuses of trying to make a name for themselves by taking down the giants of French cuisine.” Veyrat went on to describe the loss as “pathetic”.

What bothers me most is the timing of it all. The Michelin guide undoubtedly knew about the transformation coming forth with the new tasting menu and tasting experience called ‘Tradition on the Move’. “The chefs have reworked the dishes. They have been refining them for more than a year, evolving them while retaining their original DNA and taste,” mentioned manager Vincent Le Roux in a local newspaper. The restaurant is expected to reopen on January 24 after three weeks of renovations.

soupe VGE Bocuse

truffle soup VGE by Paul Bocuse

Related stories

Paul Bocuse’s Restaurant

Paul Bocuse’s Restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, is the restaurant of internationally recognised master chef Paul Bocuse.

One thought on “Paul Bocuse: The Michelin Guide Strikes Back

  1. Screw star , they are just hype and that all it’s going to be. They such for take the stars away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.