Michelin describes French chef Marc Veyrat as 'diva' over his suing of food guide

PARIS - A French celebrity chef has been branded a "diva" for taking the Michelin guide to court for suggesting he used cheddar cheese in a souffle.

Marc Veyrat is claiming he was "dishonoured" by the guide when it stripped his flagship restaurant in the French Alps of its coveted third star in January.

He claimed that an "incompetent" Michelin inspector mistakenly thought he had adulterated a souffle with the much-maligned English cheese instead of using France's Reblochon, Beaufort and Tomme varieties.

It is the first time that a chef has sued the guide.

If Veyrat wins the case, and forces Michelin to hand over its judging notes, it could set a precedent for other disgruntled chefs to go to court too.

Veyrat, 69, said the Michelin review sent him into an eight-month depression.

But Michelin hit back on the eve of the court battle, branding Veyrat a "narcissistic diva" suffering from "pathological egotism".

The case was set to open in a suburb of the French capital on Wednesday (Nov 27).

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Michelin's lawyers called the case "grotesque".

"The court is not there to protect men's vanity," lawyer Richard Malka said.

"Mr Veyrat wants France to abandon the principle that restaurant critics should have the freedom to have an opinion because his restaurant has two stars rather than three," he added.

Mr Malka said the case flies in the face of reason and basic constitutional right of freedom of expression.

While Veyrat is demanding symbolic damages of one euro (S$1.50), Michelin is now counter-suing for 30,000 euros in costs and compensation.

Veyrat's lawyer Emmanuel Ravanas said the case is far from an abuse of the legal system. "For decades, Veyrat has been used to his cooking being judged... and he knows that no one has (Michelin) stars for life."

However, it all depended on the criticism being "rigorous", he added.