Shock waves rippled through the culinary world ten days ago when news broke that the historic Paul Bocuse restaurant The Auberge du Pont de Collonges would no longer be given a three-star listing in the France Michelin Guide for 2020.
A move compounded by the fact that the demotion came just two years after the death of a culinary legend and founder, Paul Bocuse and that the restaurant's "exceptional cuisine" status had been held for a record-breaking 55 years. Elisabeth Ancelin, director of communications for the Michelin Guide, said at the time: “the restaurant is no longer at the level of three stars.”
In a Michelin first, the ceremonious dismount was handled personally by the guide's director, Gwendal Poullennec, who traveled to Lyon in the South East of France to relay the news to the devastated restaurant team. Bocuse's son, Jerome, was said to be shocked and upset but defiant that they will once again shine bright with three stars, "I guarantee it" he told local newspaper Lyon Capitale. The restaurant is scheduled to reopen on 24 January after several weeks of renovations.
Poullennec told France Inter radio: “I understand the team’s emotion. It’s a difficult decision but for Michelin, it’s a fair decision.” Changing the ranking to two stars was based on meals eaten there in 2019, according to Poullennec, who said the decision was reached collectively by Michelin inspectors. A restaurant rating always “reflects the current value of a meal. There is no special treatment in a Michelin guide”, he added, explaining in other interviews that stars are not "inherited" and "must be earned every year".
In an interview with The Washington Post, Poullennec said that during their visits in 2019, they had found "a variation in the level of the cuisine, but it remains excellent" a stance from the guide that that has sparked anger from some.
Food critic Périco Légasse called it "an absurd and unfair decision". Speaking on the radio station FranceInfo, he added: "Michelin cannot be so stupid," claiming that critics all agreed that the food at the restaurant had improved since Bocuse's death. He said: "today its discredit is total, the institution is dead."
The move also generated ripples of anger beyond the culinary world and into the public arena, there was even a show of support from loyal Lyon football supporters. During the Coupe de le Ligue win against Lille on Tuesday, fans in the stands held up a giant banner that read "Mr Paul, personne n’enlèvera une seule de vos étoiles du cœur des Lyonnais" (M.Paul, no one will remove a single one of your stars from the hearts of the Lyonnais.)
Lyon has a fierce culinary tradition and Paul Bocuse was officially known as the "Pope of Gastronomy" where one of the world's most challenging cooking competitions, The Bocuse d'Or is just one of his huge culinary legacies.
Gwendal Poullennec stands by the prestigious guide's decision, "All establishments are evaluated anonymously by our inspectors every year... whether you are an iconic chef or a young chef who takes the risk of being plunged into debt by opening a restaurant." he goes on to say.
Should any other three Michelin star restaurants be worried about bad news in tonight's reveal? Apparently not. Poullennec told AFP "no other three-starred restaurants ran the risk of being downgraded in this year's guide."
We'll bring you the news of the new France Michelin Guide 2020 when it drops this evening.