As the Michelin guide celebrates the release of its 100th French edition, its director is urging France’s great chefs to invent new ways of filling their restaurants during the economic crisis.
Jean-Luc Naret said it will force some restaurants to explore “new concepts,” pointing to New York’s upscale Jean Georges restaurant which is offering three-star lunchtime cuisine for $28 US.
Although the world’s super rich haven’t lost their taste for fine dining, some restaurants are losing business, particularly from corporate clients, and are having to offer cheaper menus, even at the top end, he said.
“Those who are too expensive will be forced to reinvent themselves,” he said. “It’s not caviar every day.”
However, crisis isn’t on the menu for Le Bristol, where Michelin elevated chef Eric Frechon’s restaurant to three-star status — the only one to receive such an upgrade in this year’s guide.
Frechon said his new coveted status should help fill empty dining tables.
“In the past, we used to turn people away. Today we aren’t doing that anymore and we’re one or two tables short,” he told The Associated Press from the kitchen where he spends most of his life, often from 7 a.m. to midnight.
“The third star is welcome because the seats we were missing will be filled tomorrow.”
Le Bristol, which opened its doors in 1925, lies just down the street from French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Parisian palace.
Frechon, who Sarkozy decorated with the French Legion of Honour last year, says the president sometimes dines there a couple of times a week, and his favourite dish is the starter of stuffed macaroni with black truffle, artichoke and duck foie gras, which costs $101.15.
A native of Normandy, in western France, Frechon describes his menu as traditional French cooking with a modern touch.
To celebrate, Michelin is expecting Frechon and around 400 guests, including other starred Michelin chefs, VIPs and artists, at the Musee d’Orsay on Monday evening for an exhibition of 100 alternative guide covers.
Naret, the Michelin director, insisted the three-star rating was not influenced by Sarkozy’s culinary preferences.
“It’s not because it’s a restaurant that (Sarkozy) likes that it was chosen,” he said at a news conference in Paris.
The awards of the coveted Michelin stars can make or break a chef’s career. Every year, the French culinary world trembles as the industry’s biggest names wait to see who will be the winners — and who will fall off their pedestal.