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Michelin guide marks century, honours British TV chef

The Michelin restaurant guide marked its 100th edition today with honours for one of President Nicolas Sarkozy's favourite hotels and for British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's first French adventure.

world Updated: Mar 02, 2009 13:26 IST

The Michelin restaurant guide marked its 100th edition on Monday with honours for one of President Nicolas Sarkozy's favourite hotels and for British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's first French adventure.

Only one kitchen joined the elite ranks of those adorned with Michelin's maximum three star rating, Eric Frechon's restaurant at Le Bristol hotel in Paris, a temple to traditional French gastronomy.

In recent months, Sarkozy has entertained Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and former British prime minister Tony Blair at Le Bristol, where Frechon serves fatted chicken cooked with crayfish, offal and truffles.

Ramsay won global acclaim both for restaurants in London, Dubai, Prague, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles and for his foul-mouthed rants as the star of television hits "Hell's Kitchen" and "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares".

But the former Glasgow Rangers footballer only opened his first restaurant in France last year -- "Gordon Ramsay au Trianon", just outside Paris in Versailles and a short step from the former royal palace.

It was seen by some as a big test for Ramsay, who once trained in France under Joel Robuchon, whose kitchens now boast the most Michelin stars worldwide, with 25 compared to Alain Ducasse's 19 and Ramsay's 12.

If so, it appears to have been a test the notoriously ambitious 42-year-old Scot took in his stride, as Le Trianon was awarded two stars in its very first year of business.

The Michelin "Red Guide" began in 1900 as a way of promoting pneumatic tyres and guiding owners of the first motor cars to France's best restaurants as they enjoyed their new freedom to tour the country.

No new editions were published during World Wars I and II, although the 1939 guide was re-issued in 1944 for Allied officers fighting their way through German-occupied France from the beaches of Normandy.

Monday's publication was therefore the 100th edition of the original French guide, while Michelin has spun-off new versions in 23 countries.

The firm's feared inspectors are still regarded as the most serious in the business, and winning and losing Michelin stars can make or break a restaurant or the reputation of a chef.

"I thought I was ready, but the emotion has overcome me a little," Frechon, 45, told AFP on news of Le Bristol's new ranking.

"It's extraordinary, it's a moment I'll never forget," he said, paying tribute to the hotel's German owners and the 80-strong team that, under his direction, cooks for only 45 tables per night.

The Michelin Guides have been criticised for their supposed bias towards traditional fine dining over simple dishes in neighbourhood bistros, but they remain market leaders, with 1.3 million copies sold every year worldwide.