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Former chief-inspector slashes Michelin

Inspectors of the prestigious Michelin guide are under pressure from the marketing department to hand out stars. By creating exitement around new stars Michelin hopes to sell more guides. Michelin also has too few inspectors to carefully inspect all hotels and restaurants in the Michelin guide. These statements are made by former Michelin chief-inspector Paul van Cranenbroeck in his book 'The Magic behind the Michelin star', to be released next week. The 66-year old Belgian worked for Michelin for 22 years, of which 18 as chief-inspector Benelux. As such he was responsible for awarding the much-coveted stars to restaurants in the Netherlands and Belgium. 

French chauvinism 
Michelin is governed by French chauvenism and nepotism, Van Cranenbroeck says. Inspectors protect their chef-friends. He describes how inspectors leave a French top restaurant through a guard of honour of chefs. The former chief-inspector, who retired in 2005, is very critical about the management in Paris. He accuses his former bosses of being incompetent, conservative and bureaucratic, with very little time for their employees. Van Cranenbroeck: "I have encountered many more careerists than gourmets". 

Anonimity "fairytale" 
In his book Van Cranenbroeck lifts the veil of mystery of Michelin. He writes that the Benelux guides with more than 3,000 hotels and restaurants are made by only 3 inspectors. They are so well-known that Michelin's famous anonimity is a fairytale, Van Cranenbroeck says. Van Cranenbroeck: "A restaurateur would have to be incredibly stupid". Inspectors have so little time that they visit most restaurants only once every 2 years. They have no time whatsoever for discovering new restaurants. According to Van Cranenbroeck falling sales of the red guides put inspectors under pressure to create news. "Add a star, take one away, create excitement". 

The Netherlands got their first three star restaurant, Parkheuvel in Rotterdam in 2002, under Van Cranenbroeck's aegis. Actually he had wanted to award Librije in Zwolle a third star in that same year. "But Paris wouldn't hear of it". The required quality level for a Michelin star in the Netherlands and Belgium is much higher than in France, Van Cranenbroeck claims, who was once presented with rotten fish in a French two star restaurant. "Apparently it hadn't been inspected for a while". 

Source: De Volkskrant - translated by Elizabeth Auerbach

Posted 12-09-2011

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