Thursday, March 5, 2009

Michelin Guide 2009

The 100th edition of Michelin's Guide Rouge France was released this week and, as usual, there were cheers and tears.

The Hotel Bristol in Paris and its chef, Eric Fréchon, earned three stars, the only new restaurant to join that elite rank this year, bringing the total number of three-stars to 26. Apparently the Bristol is one of President Sarkozy’s favorite haunts.

Down here in Provence, three local chefs are celebrating, having been promoted from one to two stars: Jean-Luc Rabanel (of L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel, Arles, who is pictured above), Jérôme Nutile (of Hostellerie Le Castellas in Collias, near the Pont du Gard) and Philippe Jourdin at Faventia, the gorgeous restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort Provence at Terre Blanche in Tourrettes (also pictured above).

I’ve been to Jean-Luc Rabanel and Faventia and I absolutely loved both. Go if you can. I haven't eaten at Le Castellas and would love to. Feel free to invite me.

Among the guide’s 449 one stars, 63 are new. In our ‘hood, these new one-stars include La Chassagnette outside Arles, Le Saule Pleureur in Monteux, Marc de Passorio at Hotel Vallon de Valrugues (St. Remy), La Petite Maison (Cucuron), Mandarine (Monte Carlo), La Table du Cap (Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat), Les Bacchanales (Vence) and La Table de Ventabren (Ventabren).

It feels a bit mean to tell you who among us lost stars this I won't. But you can see the Michelin ratings for the six departments of the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur region by clicking the link at the end of this post.

Elsewhere in the new guide, London-based chef Gordon Ramsay earned two stars for his first formal foray into the French restaurant business—he opened Le Trianon in Versailles in March 2008. To earn two stars your first year is extremely rare and Ramsay, a Scot, calls it a "triumph" over the Paris food elite.

"It’s a great honor to be awarded two Michelin stars in our first year…” he said. “It’s particularly satisfying after the rather hostile reception we had on opening and this is a real career high for me."

The launch of Le Trianon was soured for Ramsay when critic Francois Simon of Le Figaro slammed it as "Gordon Ramsayland." According to Agence France Presse, he accused Ramsay of spreading himself too thinly across his restaurant empire and leaving sous chefs in charge of the kitchens much of the year (the sous at Le Trianon, by the way, is 32-year-old Simone Zanoni). The critic also sniffed at Ramsay's out-of-the-way Versailles location, suggesting he would woo rich foreign tourists but not real Parisians. He called the cuisine at Le Trianon “photocopier food.”

Ramsay, who trained under Joël Robuchon, is the first British chef to earn two stars in France. Robuchon, meanwhile, holds more Michelin stars than anyone else: 25, compared to Alain Ducasse’s 19 and Gordon Ramsay’s 12.

Several chefs have opted out of Michelin's system in recent years, saying the personal and financial investment needed to maintain its standards didn’t pay off.

If you've had experiences good or bad at Michelin-starred restaurants in Provence, I'd love to hear about them. You can post your comments below.

An English-language version of the France Guide and the Paris Guide will be released on March 18th.

To see all the PACA (Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur) Michelin rankings, go here:


  1. When we travel, we do use the Michelin guide, even for restaurant choices from afar. We've learned 1) not to use it for casual dining and 2) not to trust the three-star ratings. We had a terrible meal once at L'Arpege, Passard's place in Paris. Utterly awful, with sneering service, a corked bottle of wine, and a ridiculous tasting menu of turnips and tomatoes. But we've had great luck at various one-star places. I don't remember if the Mas des Herbes Blanches in Joucas rates a star--but I do believe I first found it in the Michelin guide. And I remember a terrific meal at Rock Fort in Brugges on a Michelin one-star rating.

  2. Useful summary. We quite liked Faventia but the budget was big! Burgers at the Terre Blanche cost 28 euros. Our nickname for the place is the Four Mortgages. The Castelleras (1 star) is always superb near Fayence.

  3. My husband and I enjoyed the best meal of our lives at the Hostellerie Le Castellas in Collias the year before they got a michelin star. We then returned after they received the star and were very disappointed. The service was less professional and the food less outstanding. And all of that for twice the price! It has been almost 2 years since we were there and hope it has improved. We will not return on our dime because there are way too many other restaurants to try in the region!



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