My note: One must be beginning to wonder if the major French newspapers are no longer pulling punches in their Michelin coverage, while at the same time some chefs are realizing that not cow-towing to the guide isn’t so scary after all, as social media and other sources for word of mouth can deliver clientele. We are willing to go out on a limb and say that International Michelin Guides Director Gwendal Poullennec punished Veyrat for not wearing the Michelin Jacket at last year’s awards ceremony and that the inaccurate and feeble criticism of the two dishes mentioned below came from readers of the guide and not from any Michelin inspector as Veyrat makes obvious that no inspector came to his restaurant.
The great chef Marc Veyrat, who lost his third star in January has thought about ending his career. He will decide in September if he will return his two Michelin stars.
“Bonjour, please call me as soon as possible”. It was with this very short SMS at the speed of an SOS that Marc Veyrat asked us to contact him Saturday. This great chef crowned three times with three Michelin stars and twice 20/20 in the Guide Gault & Millau needed to speak with us. To speak of the unjust loss of his third star one year after gaining it at La Maison des Bois in Manigold in the French Alps. During this 30-minute phone interview with “Le Point”, the 69-year-old chef maintained that he was victimized by buzz from Michelin and didn’t take well the interview he had at Michelin Travel Partner headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt. “They want me to go back to the first grade” he stated–“like a rebel”. Call it confessions of a depressed person who has dark visions. Veyrat will decide in September if he will give back his two stars.
Le Point: Why have you decided to break your silence?
Marc Veyrat: I wouldn’t take the floor, but today it seems necessary. I am uneasy about the curved road Michelin has taken. Before they rewarded the exceptional; now they reward the sensational. They no longer judge the cuisine but everything that happens around it. For some years they even have been financed in several countries by tourism offices. Where is the independence? I am nervous about what the young chefs in France will go through with this system, which is no longer the DNA of Michelin.
Le Point: You imply that you have been victimized by this change in orientation with the loss of your third star this year.
Marc Veyrat: To accept gaining stars is also to accept losing them. I know perfectly well the rules of the game, and they are not allocated for life. I already gave back three stars when I closed my Auberge de l’Éridan à Veyrier-du-Lac (of Annecy) in 2009 for health reasons, and I lived very well without it. The taking back of my third star at La Maison des Bois in Manigod was a monumental blast of buzz for Michelin, which is disconnected from reality as they are losing momentum because of no longer selling as many paper guides in France. Downgrade Veyrat: That carries a lot of weight! Some of my colleagues told me that I also paid a heavy price by refusing to wear a Michelin jacket at the 2018 ceremony in Paris when I receive my third star.
Le Point: Something must have happened concerning a dish in order for Michelin to have downgraded you to two stars.
Marc Veyrat: I asked for a meeting at Michelin headquarters. My companion and I met with Gwendal Poullennec, the International Director of Michelin Guides and one of his colleagues for an hour and a half at 9 a.m. on March 12. When I asked him why I lost my third star, he put forth two justifications: “You put in one of your dishes a simple slice of cheddar. We also noticed that your scallops were cottony”. I remained speechless because first it wasn’t cheddar, but a technically difficult preparation based on Beaufort that I use in one of my classics “Le torchon disparaissant de Mémé Caravis”. Furthermore, it is impossible that my scallop dish is cottony because as I cook it in a shell of passion fruit. How can one have so much power when being so ignorant? I was sitting face-to-face with an amateur. I got up to leave the room and he returned to look for me at the moment that I was walking out the door of his office. The current director of the guides isn’t at the level of a Bernard Naegelen, director of the Michelin guides until 2009.
Le Point: Haven’t you come to terms with this interview?
Marc Veyrat: I will never come to terms with it. I am convinced that a Michelin inspector never came to inspect La Maison des Bois. No inspector presented his card. I asked for proof of a bill. They replied that it wasn’t ethical. If Michelin has nothing to hide, why not provide me with a bill? Let them do it and later we will be able to discuss it. I resent the arrogance and the lack of humanity against me. I’m nearly 70 years old. I have nearly 50 years of cooking behind me. I have formed or trained many chefs with Michelin stars, and Michelin wants me to return to first grade. It’s forbidden to take away a third star from Marc Veyrat. They can give it back, but the sadness will be eternal and never erasable. Michelin will never be able to repair the terrible hurt it did to me.
Le Point: You contend that the level of your cuisine hasn’t dropped.
Marc Veyrat: The best point of reference is the clients and professionals who come back. My regulars repeat to me that I am even stronger than when I had three stars in Veyrier-du-Lac or my three stars in Megève. My cuisine now has never been as modern and creative. It is mineral-like, pastoral, biological, singular and, above all, anchored in its terroir. I have the eggs from my chickens; the milk of my cows; the meat from my farmers; the fish from my ponds; the vegetables from my gardens; the herbs that I gather every morning from my two botanists in the mountains; the bread from my own baker. Who does that in France, in Europe, in the world? I even created in 2017 my foundation that oversees healthy foodstuffs for our future generations.
Le Point. In what circumstances did you learn that you had lost your third star?
Marc Veyrat. My company received on its mobile phone Sunday, January 20 at 7:54 P.M., the day before the ceremony of Michelin, a SMS from the international director: “Bonjour Monsieur Veyrat, I wish you the best for the new year. Would it be possible to call me back when you have this message, please? Sincere salutations, Gwendal Poullennec, Michelin Guides”. I was asleep after finishing Sunday lunch, the last service of the week. My company woke me up. I called Gwendal Poullennec back who told me the bad news with this laconic phrase: “We are obligated to take away one star”. It was surreal. By SMS he gives me his best wishes for 2019 and by telephone he announces to me that I lost my third star. It shocked me!
Le Point; Has this downgrade had any consequence on your business?
Marc Veyrat: No, not at all. Well to the contrary. My revenues are even up 10% compared to a year ago.
Le Point: How have you comported yourself five months after the loss of your third star?
Marc Veyrat; I’ve been depressed since January 20. It’s as if my parents died a second time. You can imagine the pain that I feel. I am the only chef in history to have gotten a third star only to lose it the following year. Every morning I wake up with that in my head. I am worn out. I have trouble sleeping, I barely eat. I cry. I feel anxious. I take some treatments and medications. I’ve have had dark thoughts. I imagine the worst. It repeats in my head. I’ve wanted to rejoin my friend Bernard Loiseau up above. My company has been afraid. It hides my pills, my hunting rifle. If I’m still here, it’s because of my girl friend and my four children.
Le Point. Do you envision giving back your two stars?
Marc Veyrat: Several chefs have encouraged me to do that. If I return them, I will be completely liberated. I’m giving myself the summer to think it over, and I will make up my mind in September.