The famously secretive Michelin guide in France is widely regarded as the definitive guide to haute cuisine. It awards stars to restaurants that it considers good and being awarded three stars is its highest honour, cuisine’s Nobel Prize if you like.
It is said that men who drink herbal teas seldom commit serial killings but it has been very much on Marc Veyrat’s mind these days.
The flamboyant French chef has been railing against Michelin, demanding that his top restaurant be withdrawn from the guide. He told AFP that its inspectors had claimed he had used English Cheddar cheese in his souffle.
“Sacre bleu!” exclaimed the outraged Monsieur Veyra. “I did use a different cheese but it certainly wasn’t cheddar.”
The excitable Frenchman didn’t think much of English fare, secretly thinking that its only contribution to world cuisine had been the chip.
And it was true that he’d used a different cheese on the day the Michelin inspectors came but, Mon Dieu. It was as French as Brigitte Bardot.
He’d had to substitute the cheese on the day in question as the shop of his local cheese supplier had burned to the ground on the very day leaving behind only de Brie.
Indeed, its lightly smoky flavour had actually enhanced the soufflé.
Monsieur Veyrat’s La Maison des Bois restaurant in the French Alps was downgraded to two stars from the maximum three in January and he said the shock had plunged him into a six-month-long depression.
“How dare you take your chefs’ health hostage?” he seethed in a blistering letter to the guide.
Veyrat, 69, took particular umbrage at inspectors “daring to say that I put Cheddar in our soufflé.”
“We only use the eggs from our own hens, the milk is from our own cows and we have two botanists out every morning collecting herbs,” the horrified chef declared.
“You are impostors,” he fumed, “who only want (to stir up) clashes for your own commercial reasons.”
“We are pulling our restaurant out of the Michelin,” he said.
But the iconic red guide remained unmoved and said Thursday that it would not withdraw its listing, despite Veyrat travelling to the French capital to confront its editors face to face.
The chef is a household name in France because of his culinary genius but it wasn’t always like this.
Indeed, in the beginning. Monsieur Veyrat could not cook at all and mostly left it to his wife. But her incompetence drove him crazy. He finally decided enough was enough after asking himself a simple question after one particularly unsatisfying breakfast.
Was toast supposed to contain bones?
His rise to become one of France’s greatest chefs was inauspicious enough. Very early on, he mastered the golden rule of haute cuisine: if it looked like a chicken, walked like a chicken and talked like a chicken, it probably needed some more time in the microwave.
And, along the way, he was bolstered by sudden flashes of genius. On a balmy spring day that made him think that God was smiling and all was well with the world, he suddenly noticed a stray hen looking at some lettuce and a tomato next to each other.
“Chicken sees a salad,” thought Monsieur Veyrat joyfully and, lo and behold, one of the great contributions to world cuisine was born.
Julius Caesar himself would have been proud.
As for the Michelin inspectors, the great chef wasn’t without influence and he knew he couldn’t beat them.
So he arranged to have them beaten.