Paul Bocuse's restaurant loses third Michelin star after 55 years

The decision sparked outrage among the French chef's peers and admirers

FILE - In this March 24, 2011 file French Chef Paul Bocuse poses outside his famed Michelin three-star restaurant L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges in Collonges-au-Mont-d'or, central France. The restaurant of famous French chef Paul Bocuse, who died two years ago, has lost its third star. It was holding it without interruption since 1965, a world record. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, File)
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It’s always been a controversial question: should Michelin stars be attributed to the restaurant they are affixed to, or to the head chef or chef patron who ensures the establishment maintains culinary perfection day after day?

In the case of French restaurant L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, it seems its chef, Paul Bocuse, was the driving force behind its prestigious three-Michelin-starred status. L’Auberge, which is better known among foodies simply as Paul Bocuse, was stripped of its third star last week – not two years after Bocuse died. The nonagenarian chef was one of the founders of nouvelle cuisine, and described by France’s President Emmanuel Macron as “the incarnation of French cuisine”.

The decision has caused a stir because the restaurant had held on to its tri-star rating since 1965, the only restaurant in the world honoured for so long. Gwendal Poullennec, the Michelin Guide's head, made the trip to Lyon himself to deliver the bad news. This year's guide will release on Monday, January 27.

The food quality, stated the Michelin Guide, was "no longer at the level of three stars. [There has been] a variation in the level of the cuisine, but it remains excellent." The restaurant will have two stars moving forward, a decision that has mostly caused outrage among chefs and food critics.

French chef Marc Veyrat was quick to take to Twitter and accused Michelin of betraying the profession. “What a scandal! How dare you touch the Paul Bocuse Institution which represents the French identity?” he wrote.

But author and critic Lesley Chersterman said she found the restaurant “overly rich and overpriced, the food dull and the service mediocre".

The restaurant itself said: “Although devastated by the inspectors’ judgment, there is one thing we never want to lose, and that is the soul of Monsieur Paul.”

To answer the question posed at the start: technically, it's the restaurant that is Michelin-starred and must retain the quality of its food and service to the satisfaction of the Michelin Guide's exacting inspectors, who may descend upon it unannounced. L'Auberge sans Paul Bocuse, it seems, fell short. But hey – there's always next year.