Paris culinary fixture loses Michelin third star

(dpa) - The prestigious Michelin Guide on Monday announced that it has stripped a Paris dining institution of its coveted third star and had for the first time awarded a third star to a restaurant in Marseille.

In losing the third star they had been granted in 2000, the restaurant Le Grand Vefour and its star chef Guy Martin were the big losers in the 2008 Michelin Guide, which will go on sale on Thursday.

Jean-Luc Naret, the director of the Michelin Guide, which is considered the most influential restaurant guide in the world, told the daily Le Figaro that the 188-year-old restaurant had been downgraded because "our inspectors... have not found three stars in Guy Martin's dishes for 18 months."

Situated across from the gardens of the Palais Royal, Le Grand Vefour was founded in 1820 and immediately earned a reputation recognized as one of the top restaurants in Paris.

Over the centuries it became a favourite meeting place for many of France's most renowned personalities, from Victor Hugo to Simone de Beauvoir. It was designated a historic monument in 1983.

Le Grand Vefour first earned its Michelin three-star rating in 1953, under chef Raymond Oliver, and held it for 30 years. Martin became its chef in 1991 and was awarded the third star in 2000.

A Michelin three-star rating is so influential that it can mean a difference in annual turnover for a restaurant of several hundred thousand euros.

The restaurant Le Petit Nice, under chef Gerald Passedat, became the first-ever eating house in the port city of Marseille to be awarded a third star. Founded in 1917, Le Petit Nice specializes in Mediterranean cuisine based on fish and crustaceans.

Of the 3,569 restaurants throughout France evaluated by the 2008 Michelin Guide, only 26 have three stars, 68 have two stars and 435 have one star.

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