French Court Rules on Chef’s Lawsuit Against Michelin Guide
Turns out, this soufflé-based scandale was just a load of hot air.
After a lengthy legal battle, a borderline hostile back-and-forth in the press, and one cheese-related accusation, a French court has finally ruled on Marc Veyrat's lawsuit against the Michelin Guide.
But before we get to that, let's recap exactly how this all started and how a celebrated French chef ended up suing for the right to read an inspector's notes—and for a largely symbolic €1 ($1.12) in damages. Last January, Veyrat’s restaurant La Maison des Bois, in the Haute-Savoie area of France, had been demoted from three stars to two.
Veyrat didn't handle the two-star demotion well, basically accusing the Michelin inspector of misunderstanding his three-cheese souffle; the chef says that the dish got its deep yellow color from saffron, but he believes that the inspector thought he'd used non-traditional (and non-French) cheddar instead. (And Veyrat, it should be noted, would never.)
"I have been depressed for six months," the chef said in July. "How dare you take the health of your cooks hostage?" That same month, he demanded that Michelin remove La Maison des Bois from its guide entirely. That request was denied.
Veyrat's next move was to file a lawsuit, requesting the inspector's notes from his or her visit to La Maison des Bois, and he also wanted to see a receipt proving that they'd actually eaten that 100 percent cheddar-free souffle. He also asked for a single Euro, as compensation for the mental anguish he said he suffered. ("We understand Mr. Veyrat’s disappointment, and no one is disputing his talent, although we regret his unreasonable persistence in accusing and noisily communicating,” Michelin said in a statement at the time.)
A late November court date was set, but not before Michelin referred to Veyrat as a "narcissistic diva" with "pathological egotism," and asked for €30,000 ($33,520) in damages and compensation related to its side of the lawsuit. "It's a question of respecting the freedom of criticism and opinion in our country," Richard Malka, the attorney representing Michelin, told AFP in December. "This freedom cannot disappear just because of the susceptibility of some public figure or another who can legitimately be criticised."
Last week, a French court dismissed Veyrat's lawsuit, ruling that he had not provided any evidence proving that he or his restaurant had been harmed by losing a star. Last month, Veyrat said that bookings at La Maison des Bois actually increased by 7 percent compared to the previous year, and that the restaurant had never been as busy during a holiday season. "At this rate I wish they’d take away all my stars," he said.
Dude, maybe you shouldn't tempt them.