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thoughts on Michelin & haute-cuisine
by Tom Cannavan, 06/05

In June 2005 I wrote an account of my two-week gastronomic holiday, when I travelled around the south of France eating in in some of the top restaurants of the region. Some very good points were raised by visitors in response, and a broad selection of these is printed below. Where I had something to add to the debate I have also included my reply.

Thanks to everyone who responded.

   Essay Responses   

David Pearce, UK
Ah Tom - you have passed through your right of passage. It happens to us all as we get older. The older we are, the simpler we like the food! Certainly that's the case for me. I had a nice lunch yesterday with some winemakers at Claridges - very nice and away from the Foie Gras etc on the lunch menu. Starters included Ballontine of rabbit, Mushroom rissotto and a duck confit ravioli. Mains included Pork belly on choucroute, Sea Bass and rack of lamb. I agree that the whole haute-cuisine experience can be too formulated in the style of food. Just think of Marco Pierre-White a few years ago: it was like Happy Eater Michelin-style - the menus totally predictable. What we need to get back to is good honest food where the main focus of the dish is the main ingredient, whose only additions are complementary.
My response to David:
I'll definitely concede to a touch of early "grumpy old man" syndrom! But yes, there's a definite danger that comes with success as in MPW - and I fear the same for Gordon Ramsay somewhere down the line as he opens more and more places and does less and less cooking.

Will Chambers, UK
Michelin / Robert Parker - similar success; similar effects. The thirst of the consumer for accurate scoring leads - when that scoring is reliable - to a warping of the product because the provider inevitably responds. We should have been happy with good old word of mouth and the odd gross disappointment.
My response to Will:
A comparison to Robert Parker isn't a bad one at all. The critic becoming too powerful, and ending up shaping and almost dictating the way their subject develops, rather than just commentating on it.