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Specifically, the critics are calling out Michelin, on its centenary edition no less, for awarding three coveted stars to “President Sarkozy’s favourite restaurant, Eric Fréchon at the Hotel Bristol, 200 metres from the president’s office in the Elysée Palace.”

Writes Paul Levy in the Guardian‘s Word of Mouth blog:

However, said the feared critic of Le Figaro, François Simon (whose integrity and judgement I would argue to be greater than all the Michelin inspectors there have ever been) – it’s a fix.

He had this to say on the matter:

“No one will even ask if it’s deserved or not – it’s simply a marketing gimmick by Michelin, for this is the favourite eating place of the President of the Republic, who personally gave a decoration to the 45-year-old chef, Eric Fréchon.”

Now the thing is, Simon said this in Le Figaro on 11 February, and the official publication is only today, 2 March. So the gang at Fat Mich, especially its director, Jean-Luc Naret, has had plenty of time to deny the charge. His response is the very French equivalent of the Johnsonian “I refute it thus”: by giving a party today for more than 60 three-star chefs from all over the world.

Levy concludes with this final shot over Michelin’s bow:

Of course, Michelin always gets it wrong when it comes to non-French restaurants. Just look at their awards to the wrong Indian, Thai and Chinese places in London – or Hong Kong, come to that. Actually their track record at home isn’t really very good either – in the 1970s and 80s the editors totally failed to realise that they were living through a time of culinary revolution, and actually took no notice of the nouvelle cuisine. Another couple of French three-star chefs have handed back their stars this year because it’s too difficult (and pointless in a recession) for them to keep up the ridiculous standards of service and luxe three stars demand.