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South Korean Chef Sues Michelin Over ‘Insult’ of Being Included in Guide

The chef says Michelin is “unworthy of making an evaluation” of his restaurant, Ristorante Eo

An assortment of Michelin guidebooks
The red Michelin guidebooks started in Europe but have expanded to Asia in recent years.
EQRoy/Shutterstock

Yet another chef wants nothing to do with Michelin. The Korea Herald reports that chef Eo Yun-gwon is suing the dining guide for including his Italian restaurant Ristorante Eo in the 2020 guide to Seoul after he specifically asked not to be included. Although that doesn’t sound illegal on its own, Eo is accusing Michelin of insult, a crime under South Korean law.

Ristorante Eo wasn’t among Michelin’s starred selections for the year, instead appearing in the “Michelin Plate” category which designates “fresh ingredients, carefully prepared: a good meal.” Ristorante Eo appeared in Michelin’s first guide to Seoul with one star and maintained that star in the 2018 guide the following year. Last year, the restaurant dropped from the starred selections. But, Eo says that the downgrade isn’t the root of the insult. “It is insulting that my name and the restaurant’s name have been listed in an unwholesome book,” he told the Korea Herald. “Though being listed in the Michelin Guide may have a great promotional effect on the restaurant, I don’t want any help from an opaque, subjective company.”

Michelin has expanded its reach into Asia in recent years, and questions about whether the French tire company would get it right surrounded its debut in some Asian cities. In Seoul, chefs have repeatedly raised concerns about the guide’s credibility, citing factual errors and spelling mistakes, according to the Korea Times. According to Eo’s claims, Michelin inspectors only considered 170 restaurants in Seoul and are thus “unworthy of making an evaluation.”

This isn’t the first time Michelin has faced legal action from a disgruntled chef. Earlier this year, French chef Marc Veyrat announced he was suing Michelin because an inspector falsely claimed a soufflé at La Maison des Bois included cheddar cheese (the restaurant was downgraded from three to two stars). Veyrat initially demanded that Michelin remove his restaurant from the guide; Michelin refused.

Eo says he first wrote to Michelin requesting that his restaurant be removed from the guide after it received a star in the 2017 edition. But as much as chefs protest their restaurants rankings, and whether it’s because they disagree with the premise or merely the pressure it puts on a chef, Michelin is steadfast in its refusal to produce dining guides based on anything other than its own judgment. In response to Eo’s displeasure, Michelin’s PR arm in South Korea said, “The principle is to make independent decisions, whether the restaurants request to be included or excluded in the list.”

Chef sues Michelin Guide for listing his restaurant against his wish [The Korea Herald]
Credibility of Michelin Guide Seoul still in doubt [The Korea Times]
French Chef Sues Michelin Guide Over ‘Cheddar-in-My-Soufflé’ Claim [ELON]

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