Late French chef Paul Bocuse's flagship restaurant has been closed for renovation since the second day of the year. When it reopens next week, there will be one huge difference—and it's not because of anything that the construction crew or the interior designers did.
For the first time in 55 years, L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, also known simply as Bocuse, will have only two Michelin stars, ending the Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or restaurant's unprecedented three-star run. According to the James Beard Foundation, when the iconic Bocuse received his third star in 1965, he was the youngest-ever chef to attain that honor, and the first to do it after World War II.
Gwendal Poullennec, the International Director of the Michelin Guides, visited the Collonges staff and management on Thursday to inform them of the organization's decision. A spokesperson for the Michelin Guide told AFP that the two-star rating was due to the fact that L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges "remained excellent but [was] no longer at the level of three stars." The 2020 edition of the storied Guide will be released three days after the restaurant reopens.
Depuis Collonges et du fond du cœur, nous continuerons à faire vivre le Feu Sacré avec audace, enthousiasme, excellence et une forme certaine de liberté. https://t.co/bRhZvgyoJI pic.twitter.com/nAGXqMWW9m— Paul Bocuse - Le Restaurant Gastronomique (@PaulBocuse) January 17, 2020
"It has been 2 years since Monsieur Paul left us, and even if the star does not belong to a Chef, it goes without saying that everyone was wondering about our future," the restaurant wrote in a statement.
"Although upset by the inspectors' judgment, there is one thing that we never want to lose, it is the soul of Mr. Paul [...] From Collonges and from the bottom of our hearts, we will continue to bring the Sacred Fire to life with audacity, enthusiasm, excellence and a certain form of freedom."
The restaurant debuted its newest dining experience, called "Tradition on the Move," last October, and manager Vincent Le Roux has pledged that the already "exceptional" experience will "take on its full dimension" when it reopens.
"The chefs have reworked the dishes," he recently told Le Progrès. "They have been refining them for more than a year, evolving them while retaining their original DNA and taste."
Bocuse died in January 2018, at age 91. "Mr. Bocuse shaped a style of cooking at the restaurant that stressed fresh ingredients, lighter sauces, unusual flavor combinations and relentless innovation that, in his case, rested on a solid mastery of classic technique," The New York Times wrote at the time. "His signature dishes not only pleased the palate; they also seduced the eye and piqued the imagination."
Paul Bocuse fut mon ami et compagnon de route pdt 50 ans. Je suis triste pour l’équipe qui reprend le flambeau à Collonges.— Chef Georges Blanc (@GeorgesBlancOff) January 16, 2020
On recherche une cuisine qui régale d’abord mais qui doit aussi cultiver cette touche émotionnelle pour une expérience mémorable. #guidemichelin #bocuse pic.twitter.com/I5FnyMnThz
The Michelin Guide's revised rating hasn't gone over well among Bocuse's contemporaries. "I am sad for the team that took up the torch at Collonges," three Michelin star chef Georges Blanc tweeted. Marc Veyrat, who sued the Michelin Guide after he lost his own three-star rating, called the decision "pathetic."
"Forget the strikes, the flu epidemic, the misery of mid-January, the climate scare ... main headline in France this morning: late chef Paul Bocuse restaurant lost one of its three Michelin stars," one Paris-based reporter tweeted on Friday. "Bocuse was the God of all chefs."