The moment has arrived to call time on the Michelin era, and to stop worshipping at its hyped-up altar. The little red guide should be put in a glass case and exhibited in some museum to be viewed as a curiosity. Social media has made it superfluous, and there are hundreds of rating agencies on the web more credible than the Michelin. Even chefs whose restaurants feature, or were featured, in the Guide are turning their backs on it, like Marbella's Dani García, who is handing back his three stars at the end of the year.
Even its reliability and fairness is being called into question, and if this smells of losing credibility, it is indeed an object lesson in how to do it. The latest Michelin 'scandal' involves one of France's top chefs, Marc Veyrat, who recently declared, "I am worried about Michelin's current policy. It used to give stars to restaurants that were exceptional, but now it is more interested in the sensational." Veyrat's third star for La Maison des Bois in Manigold, in the French Alps, was cancelled after only one year, for the simple reason, Veyrat believes, that he refused to don the obligatory Michelin jacket during the award ceremony.
Taking the bull by the horns, he flew to Paris and confronted Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the guide. "She told me," recounts Veyrat, "that in one of my dishes I used Cheddar cheese, and in another the scallops were woolly-tasting. I couldn't believe it. Firstly the cheese was Beaufort, not Cheddar, and secondly I always cook my scallops in the shell with passion fruit, so no way could they have been woolly-tasting."
Unsurprisingly Veyrat is not alone in believing the Guide is deliberately controversial as a publicity tool, bearing in mind its sales are in ongoing decline. In fact no-one is quite sure who buys it, as lists of Michelin-starred restaurants are freely available everywhere you look. Veyrat plans to hand back all his stars at year-end, although there is actually no mechanism for doing so. Michelin is a guide book and as such can publish what it wants without asking anyone's permission.