Michelin hails ‘cultural dynamism’ as 52 French restaurants earn their first stars | Michelin Guide

A record 52 restaurants in France – including 23 that only opened in the past year – have been awarded one or more Michelin stars for the first time, which the French foodies’ bible said reflected the “cultural dynamism” of a new generation of innovative young chefs.

“This year’s is a generous vintage, and also true to our values,” said Gwendal Poullennec, the director of the Michelin Guide, at the launch of its 115th edition on Monday. Well over half of the new laureates were under the age of 40, he said.

One of them, Fabien Ferré, 35, received the top accolade of three stars at his first attempt. Ferré, who took over the kitchen of La Table du Castellet in the southern Var department last year, thus becomes France’s youngest tri-stellar cook.

“The gastronomy that you serve, the passion and the talent that are yours, enlighten all our lives”, François Bonneau, the regional president, told an audience of more than 500 chefs gathered for the ceremony in the Loire Valley capital of Tours.

Around the turn of the millennium, critics argued that French cuisine had had its day: jaded mockeries of once-great dishes, a gastronomy in decline, a lamentable lack of innovation. You could eat better French food in London or New York than in France, some claimed.

The Michelin Guide itself, first published by the tyre-manufacturing brothers André and Édouard Michelin in 1900 to encourage motorists to discover restaurants around France, has come in for its fair share of criticism over the years.

Many gastronomes have argued that the guide has failed to move with the times, rewarding tradition rather than innovation.

A handful of chefs have broken rank – and even “handed back” their stars – saying the guide’s practice of rating a restaurant’s comfort as highly as its cuisine meant they were bankrupting themselves on frills rather than food.

One three-starred chef, Marc Veyrat, tried to sue the guide in 2019 after losing his third star in a dispute over whether or not a sliver of cheddar – considered an inferior cheese – had been surreptitiously introduced into his souffle.

But after a long period of resting on its laurels, France has seen a flourishing of new restaurants in the past few years, with more daring and creative young chefs – many of whom have worked abroad – eager to experiment and adopt international ideas.

Fabien Ferré (left), chef at La Table du Castellet, received three Michelin stars on his first attempt, alongside Jérôme Banctel of Le Gabriel at La Réserve hotel in Paris. Photograph: Guillaume Souvant/AFP/Getty Images

More than 20 more restaurants won a first star this year than last, confirming that 2024’s crop was “a superb selection that bears witness to the quality and quantity of France’s culinary dynamism on the world stage”, Poullennec said.

“It’s no longer just about heritage,” he told Agence France-Presse. “French gastronomy is no longer stuck in the past.” The 2024 selection marked “the emergence of a whole generation that we could feel coming up,” he said.

This year’s stars were also more evenly spread geographically, with 40 villages and municipalities in France’s regions finding themselves with a Michelin-starred restaurant for the first time, many focusing on sustainable, locally-sourced cuisine.

“There is a very clear emphasis on the ‘terroirs’ – the local agricultural fabric,” said Poullennec, adding that the guide now took into account the “collective nature and overall entrepreneurial project” of the establishments it was assessing.

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In eastern France, 11 restaurants won a first star, with 15 in northern France and the Paris region (12 in the capital itself, including Nhome, which has only one table for 20 diners, and the African-fusion Espadon at the Ritz), six in the west of the country, 11 in the south and nine in the south-east.

Espadon chef Eugénie Béziat was, however, one of only six female chefs being awarded a star on Monday, a figure Poullennec said the guide “really deplored”.

Eight restaurants were awarded a second star, and one other chef secured the coveted three stars. Jérôme Banctel, chef at Le Gabriel, the restaurant of the luxury Le Réserve hotel in Paris, had held two stars since 2015. Monday’s announcements bring the number of restaurants in France with three stars to 30, those with two to 75, and those with one to 534.

Stars are awarded according to five criteria: the quality of the products, the harmony of the flavours, the mastery of techniques, the personality of the chef as reflected in their cuisine, and the restaurant’s consistency over time.

One star rewards an establishment that is “very good in its category”; two stars an “inspired and refined” cuisine; while three are reserved for “remarkable cuisine by chefs at the peak of their talent”, producing dishes “destined to become classics”.

To avoid spoiling Monday’s party, the 26 restaurants that lost their single star – generally because of a change of chef – as well as the two restaurants that were demoted from three to two stars and from two to one, were named earlier this month.

Agence-France Presse contributed to this report.

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