Marc Veyrat, a top-rated French chef, sued the Michelin Guide in 2019 for downgrading his world-renowned restaurant in the French Alps from three to two stars. Just the previous year, Michelin had awarded Veyrat the highest ranking. That achievement had marked his comeback after he had given up cooking for several years following a skiing accident and a 2015 fire at his restaurant.
Just Excellent …
In an infamous court case, now known as ‘Cheddargate,’ Veyrat speculated he was downgraded after an “incompetent” Michelin inspector with an unrefined palate mistook the ingredients.
Veyrat claimed the anonymous inspector thought Veyrat had used English Cheddar in place of French Reblochon, Beaufort, and Tomme cheese in one of his signature soufflé dishes. “I put saffron in it, and the gentleman who came thought it was cheddar because it was yellow,” Veyrat contended.
“It’s worse than a wound. It’s profoundly offensive. It’s worse than the loss of my parents, worse than anything. It gave me a depression.”
Michelin’s review had commended Veyrat for being “true to his reputation” and described his cuisine as a “pastoral symphony” that blends “woodland fragrances and Alpine herbs.” But Veyrat would have nothing less than three stars.
… Not Exceptional
At the court hearing, Veyrat demanded a symbolic €1 in damages. He asked for proof that the Michelin inspectors had even dined at his restaurant. He demanded to see their judging notes and clarify how they had come to their decisions. (The Michelin Guide’s evaluation criteria are perhaps the biggest trade secrets in the restaurant business.)
In reply, Michelin denied the Cheddar-related allegations and accused Veyrat of acting like a “narcissistic diva” suffering from “pathological egotism.”
Veyrat lost the court case.
Nobody Likes Rejection, Certainly Not a Perfectionist
Veyrat’s wounded pride is understandable. The Michelin Guide is arguably the world’s foremost arbiter of haute cuisine. Many chefs base their entire identity on getting three Michelin stars, the ultimate culinary accolade, and, in so doing, self-inflict extreme pressure to be labeled “exceptional.”
The Michelin Guide is not without controversies. Michelin stars can bring significant prestige, but also intense pressure on chefs. The unrelenting psychological stress and the financial demands of producing ever more creative dishes have even led a few chefs to suicide. Over the last decade, several renowned chefs have also requested Michelin to revoke their stars and opted out of the system in a quest for better work-life balance.
In 2019, South Korean chef Eo Yun-gwon sued Michelin for including his restaurant in the Michelin Guide after he’d told them not to. He declared, “The Michelin Guide is a cruel system. It’s the cruelest test in the world. It forces the chefs to work around a year waiting for a test [and] they don’t know when it’s coming.” Some chefs closed their restaurants and launched lower-key eateries that still cater to discerning epicures.
Idea for Impact: Challenge the Perfectionist, “All-or-Nothing” Thinking
This Marc Veyrat-Michelin Guide episode is yet another reminder that being a perfectionist—and insisting on excellence at all costs—has a dark side. Perfectionism can cause adverse outcomes such as excessive procrastination, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.
Perfectionists tend to engage in “all-or-nothing thinking”—that they are either perfect or worthless. In reality, most of us operate on the continuum between these two extremes. We’re neither perfect nor worthless, just “good enough.”
If you’re struggling with perfectionism, it’s crucial to take in the concept of being and doing “good enough.”