your connection to The Boston Globe

Restaurant guide critic loses whistleblower suit

PARIS -- The "storm in a saucepan" intensified yesterday for a former top restaurant inspector who has become the enfant terrible of French gastronomy.

Pascal Remy lost a lawsuit alleging that the prestigious Michelin Red Guide wrongfully dismissed him for publicly questioning how the secretive bible of haute cuisine awards its coveted stars to the nation's best chefs.

But Remy said he will appeal, vowing to fight "on behalf of all those diners who shell out serious money for an exceptional meal."

"They're the clients of these restaurants, and they want the truth," he said in an interview.

Michelin fired Remy, a 16-year veteran inspector who roamed France in search of the finest eating experiences, after he threatened to publish his diaries earlier this year.

In April Remy retaliated with a book, "L'Inspecteur Se Met a Table" ("The Inspector Sits Down to Eat"), exposing how the guide ranks restaurants and alleging that a third of the top-rated three-star establishments don't deserve the ranking.

The book, which since has been translated from French into Spanish and is set to debut in Japanese in several weeks, blew the lid off the mystique surrounding how Michelin decides which chefs get -- or lose -- a star.

In his book, which triggered an uproar that one French newspaper dubbed a "storm in a saucepan," Remy alleged that restaurants get checked only sporadically, that the guide employs too few inspectors, and that many top restaurants keep their star status mostly because of the prestige of their top chefs.

Michelin, which has bitterly denied Remy's claims, insists it awards stars only to the very best and most innovative restaurants. It also contends Remy violated a confidentiality clause in his contract and has countersued him for slander, a charge the Paris labor relations board refused to rule on yesterday.

The board said Remy had no grounds to challenge his dismissal or seek $191,500 in damages and another $72,600 in back pay. It ordered him to pay $2,660 in court costs.

The guide has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide in its 104 years. It ranks about 4,000 restaurants and 6,000 hotels.

Remy insists that Michelin had no right to fire him "before I even wrote the book."

Unemployed since being ousted in February, Remy said he's been paying the bills through royalties from his book, which he said has sold about 30,000 copies in France.

He said he stands by his allegations that Michelin's methods are flawed and that many supposedly top restaurants just don't cut the mustard.

"The guide must inspect all the addresses regularly -- that's basic," said Remy.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives