French chefs, food critics and even President Emmanuel Macron have weighed in as outrage mounts that Michelin has stripped Auberge du Pont de Collonges, the flagship restaurant of French culinary icon Paul Bocuse, of its third Michelin star after 55 years.
The Michelin guide announced Friday that the restaurant in Collonges-au-Mont-d'or, near Lyon in south-eastern France, has been downgraded to two stars. It has held three stars since 1965, a world record.
The organisation said that while the restaurant "remained excellent", it was no longer at the level of three stars. Its dongraded status will appear in the 2020 edition of the guidebook.
In reflection, perhaps, of how controversial the decision was expected to be in France, with Michelin Guide boss Gwendal Poullennec travelling in person to Auberge du Pont de Collonges to break the news.
Speaking to RTL later, Poullennec said: “Michelin stars have to be earned, not inherited,”
But Chef Marc Veyrat, who is currently suing Michelin after the organisation awarded his retaurant La Maison de Bois two stars rather than three, said that the move was "a scandal".
"How dare you touch the Paul Bocuse institution which represents the French identity. Why kill the fathers?" he wrote on Twitter after the announcement.
Even French President Emmanuel Macron got involved, telling RTL: “I want to spare a thought for what his family represents, for all those he trained, and that cannot take away from the unique role of Paul Bocuse in French gastronomy.”
Other critics included the mayor of Lyon, Gerard Collomb, and food critic Perico Legasse, AFP reported.
The 'Pope' of French cuisine
Paul Bocuse died age 91 in January 2018 in Collonges-au-Mont-d'or, the place where he was born and where his famous restaurant is based.
He was the first chef to blend the art of cooking with savvy business tactics, branding his cuisine and his image to create an empire of restaurants around the globe whose offerings range from haute cuisine to fast food.
The restaurant's kitchen is now run by a trio of French chefs.
Georges Blanc, a chef with three stars, said Bocuse had been his friend and that he "was sad for the team that took the torch at Collonges."
"We're looking for a cuisine that first delights but that also cultivates an emotional touch for a memorable experience."
The Bocuse group also owns several brasseries, cafes and other establishments in the city of Lyon, as well as a restaurant in Walt Disney World's Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida, that opened in 1982, and one in Japan.
A statement on the restaurant's website read: "The famous Red Guide has just announced that the Paul Bocuse Restaurant, triple star since 1965, has been classified 2 stars."
"Although upset by the inspectors' judgement, there is one thing that we never want to lose, it is the soul of Mr. Paul. Paul Bocuse was a visionary, a free man, a force of nature."