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THE STORY OF FRENCH CHEFS' QUEST FOR MICHELIN STAR GLORY

In the country that invented fine dining.
Where cooking is an art form.
Where eating is just as important as breathing and sleeping.
There is One Guide to Rule Them All. 

Food-Lover’s Dream

Jean-François' revelation lead us to embark on every food-lover’s dream – rambling through France, from village to village, restaurant to restaurant, spending time in the kitchens and dining rooms listening to the personal stories of some of France's most celebrated chefs.

We discovered that what those chefs dream about is winning a Michelin star. And, once they have their first star, what they think about every day, what they work toward, is holding on to that distinction, hoping and praying that a star will still be next to their name in the next year’s edition of the restaurant guide. Chasing Stars follows some of the best chefs in France as they strive for greater recognition.

Only in France

Only in France would you find roving bands of chefs – the trunks of their Renaults crammed with wine, cheese, baguettes and toques – spilling across the countryside to distant Michelin-starred restaurants to ferret out their secrets.

At least that's the image we got when we first heard the story one night in Provence over dinner with our friend Jean-François who was maître d' at Le Grand Pré, a restaurant with a Michelin star in the Côtes du Rhône wine village of Roaix. He gave us our first inkling of the significance of the Michelin Guide to the chefs and restaurants of the country that invented fine dining.

"It's hard work," J-F told us. "Up early, into Le Grand Pré by 8 am, a bit of a break after lunch service, and then back again for dinner service. Most times I get home after 11 pm.

 

"But all we think about is how to get a second star. During the off season, when Le Grand Pré is closed for two months, the chef and I travel around Europe, eating at two-star restaurants, looking for clues. What are they doing that we're not? Is their wine cellar better? Is the service superior? What could we do to get a second star?"

Behind the Scenes

Chasing Stars is the first book to take readers behind the scenes in the Michelin-starred kitchens of France to witness the creation of the dishes that have earned chefs their place in the Michelin Guide.

Going even deeper, we learn about the life of a Michelin chef in France, the birthplace of the star system; about the demanding chef training system; and about how essential the Michelin Guide is to the chefs and the culinary culture of the country.

Four Iconic Regions

Paris, Provence, Burgundy, Lyon – Chasing Stars travels to four iconic regions of France to visit with dozens of chefs who have earned the most prestigious culinary distinction — a Michelin star. We take the reader behind the scenes in each restaurant for an insider’s perspective — elbow-to-elbow with the chef in the kitchen during dinner service, learning how they create their signature dishes, poking into the wine cellars with the sommelier, taking glorious photographs, and describing the experience of dining in these notable restaurants.

 

From the chefs themselves we hear about their struggles, their passions, their plans, and what they do, day after day, to pursue or hold on to their Michelin stars.

The journey takes us to one-star restaurants from Paris to the Côtes-du-Rhône wine country of Provence, from the ancient wine villages of Burgundy to the lavender-scented fields of Peter Mayle's Luberon, and to the food capital of France, Lyon.

“Michelin is the only guide that is important.  All the rest do not matter.”

– Chef Frédéric Robert, La Grande Cascade, Paris

The Michelin Guide

For more than a century the Michelin Guide has helped shape the culinary landscape in France and elsewhere in the world. Many have heard about Michelin, but few know the details of how it works and the central role it plays in French culinary culture. 

 

In an interview for this book, Chef Eric Ripert told us how important the Michelin Guide has been to him. As a17-year-old graduate of culinary school in France, Ripert combed the pages of the guide, marking the restaurants he wanted to work for.

Of the thousands of restaurants in France, fewer than thirty have been awarded the highest accolade of three Michelin stars,. The country’s ninety two-star restaurants want nothing more than to add a third star to their accolades. The field widens with 1-star restaurants: five hundred of them pepper the country, with many of their chefs still falling asleep at night counting stars.

 

Chasing Stars is the first book to tell the story of Michelin, its importance to France, and the personal tales of the chefs who are chasing Michelin stars.

©2020 by Voconces Culinary Ltd. Photographs ©Mark Craft.