Michelin three-star veteran turns his back on the trimmings

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Indy Lifestyle Online

For decades Michelin stars were the symbol of gastronomic success, but now the top Parisian chef Alain Senderens has joined other celebrities of haute cuisine by turning his back on them, remodelling his restaurant into a simpler brasserie.

For decades Michelin stars were the symbol of gastronomic success, but now the top Parisian chef Alain Senderens has joined other celebrities of haute cuisine by turning his back on them, remodelling his restaurant into a simpler brasserie.

After a maximum rating for 28 years at the Lucas Carton restaurant in Place de Madeleine, M. Senderens will reportedly next week present plans to offer plainer fare at cheaper prices. An entirely new menu, freed from Michelin constraints, is expected and prices will be slashed by two-thirds.

At present, customers at Lucas Carton, a Paris institution, can expect to pay more than €200 each (£138). A lobster dish might cost €95, while some single glasses of wine can come in at €65.

Its Michelin three-star listing, which denotes "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey", will doubtless have helped to ensure a constant stream of customers from around the world ready to pay such prices.

Nevertheless, at the age of 65, M. Senderens is hoping to simplify his life and his cuisine, removing the stresses and expenses that safeguarding the three-star rating entails.

His decision has been described as a "mini-revolution" in the French press, but M. Senderens is not the first to question the value of a Michelin star or three.

Founded in France in 1900 as a free directory of restaurants and accommodation for motorists, the guide soon upped its standards and employed a team of inspectors.

For many decades it was the uncontested authority on fine dining in France and around the world. Even a single star was beyond most restaurants.

However, in recent years the ratings have have lost some of their lustre.

World-class chefs have complained about costs for restaurants that endeavour to meet criteria for a top rating. A three-star rating usually requires lavish decor and almost as many staff as diners.

Earlier this year, Joel Robuchon, France's "chef of the century" and a former holder of three stars, said he was saddened by the guide's "backward-looking ostentatious criteria for luxury" and declined to have his restaurants in Paris and Cannes featured.

Marco Pierre White, the first British-born chef to win three stars, was one of the first to renounce his rating in 1999, along with Nico Ladenis.

The guide's integrity has also been tarnished by last year's publication of a book by the former Michelin inspector Pascal Remy, who claimed many listings were repeated year after year without reinspection.

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