Inspector lifts the lid on Michelin secrets

John Lichfield
Friday 13 February 2004 01:00
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The code of secrecy that surrounds France's most prestigious food guide - the Michelin Guide Rouge - will be broken tomorrow by a renegade restaurant inspector.

Pascal Rémy, a Michelin inspector for 16 years before he was sacked in December, will claim in an interview with Le Figaro magazine that one in three of the 27 three-star restaurants in France are below standard.

He also claims that only five inspectors are in charge of reviewing the 10,000 restaurants in the guide. Not all those recommended by Michelin are visited each year, he said.

As a result, restaurants with three Michelin stars - the highest accolade in French gastronomy - are not always what they seem. "More than a third of the three-star restaurants are not of the standard expected," he said.

M. Rémy claims he was fired for refusing to abandon a plan to publish his diaries, packed with tips and anecdotes of the inspection trade. The British editor of the Michelin guides, Derek Brown, said that M. Rémy had been dismissed for demanding money to keep the diaries hidden.

Mr Brown, who has worked for Michelin in Britain and France for 30 years, rejected the accusation that some restaurants were below par.

"I don't accept that and I don't agree with it. We wouldn't give three stars if we didn't think it was right," he said.

He also denied M. Rémy's claim there were only five permanent Michelin inspectors in France. "He knows very well that's not accurate," Mr Brown said. "We have never said we visit every hotel and restaurant every year. We put the inspectors at the time we need them in the right place."

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