Restaurant inspector fired for revealing guide's secrets suffers another setback in court
By WILLIAM J. KOLE
Associated Press Writer
PARIS France's ``storm in a saucepan'' just got cloudier for Pascal Remy, a former top restaurant inspector who's become the enfant terrible of French gastronomy.
Remy lost a lawsuit Tuesday alleging 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'll 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 told The Associated Press.
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,'' or ``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 only get sporadically checked, the guide employs too few inspectors, and 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 contends he violated a confidentiality clause in his contract and has countersued him for slander, a charge the Paris labor relations board that threw out Remy's suit refused to rule on Tuesday.
The board said Remy had no grounds to challenge his dismissal or seek 145,000 euros ($191,500) in damages and another 55,000 euros ($72,600) in back pay. Instead, it ordered him to pay 2,000 euros ($2,660) in court costs.
``Pascal Remy succeeded in duping journalists, but it's more difficult to trick a tribunal,'' Michelin lawyer Georges Kiejman said.
He said the publishing company likely would launch fresh legal proceedings alleging its reputation was blemished by the book. Food is both a passion and serious business in France, a truth underscored by last year's suicide of acclaimed chef Bernard Loiseau.
Loiseau fatally shot himself amid rumors that he might lose one of his three stars, Michelin's top ranking, after being downgraded by another food guide. His restaurant retained all three stars in the 2004 edition of the Michelin guide.
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, when all I had was some notes.''
Unemployed since he was 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, 41, who denies he's soured the restaurant scene for France's more well-heeled diners.
``I'm not shunned. I get a lot of positive reactions,'' he said. ``People who run into me on the street thank me for writing the book. It was the story of one inspector _ that's all.''
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POSTSCRIPT FOR HOSPITALITY STUDENTS: Your career will have reached its high point if, ever, you work in or own a restaurant worthy of a Michelin review.