Ill-starred chef falls out of flavour

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The Independent Online
The head chef at the Tour d'Argent, the venerated Paris restaurant which suffered the disgrace of losing its third Michelin star last month, is to be replaced from the beginning of May, it was announced yesterday. The restaurant's owner said he had reached agreement with Manuel Martinez to part company.

Mr Martinez is to be replaced by 44-year-old Bernard Guilhaudin, a native of Lyons, with an impressive record in Paris. The owner of the Tour d'Argent, Claude Terrail, said his objective now was to start trying to recover the third star.

Founded in 1582 in the reign of Henry III, the restaurant is the oldest in Paris and frequented by French high society, politicians, and - increasingly - well-to-do foreign visitors. Except for one year, 1952, it had been awarded three stars since the Michelin Guide's star system was introduced in 1933.

The Guide gives no specific reason for awarding or subtracting a star, and all its inspections are anonymous. This year, however, it appeared to allude to the reasons for demoting the Tour d'Argent by saying that the recession in France was no reason to lower standards, and that "all that counts is what is on the plate, not the trimmings". It was one of only two restaurants in the whole of France to face the indignity of losing a third star.

While the loss of a coveted Michelin star is enough in itself to explain the dismissal of Mr Martinez, another cloud also hung over him. He was one of several celebrated Paris chefs placed under judicial investigation in December on suspicion of having taken kickbacks from a supplier at the Paris wholesale fish market. More than 20 others, including the head chef at the Crillon Hotel's two-star restaurant, were also implicated in the case, which is said to involve monthly payments of between 1,000 and 3,000 francs to each.