Tuesday, March 28

Waste of Michelin stars | Today

Three-star chef Arnaud Donckele (right), from Plénitude, together with pastry chef Maxime Frédéric (left). / CR

Record. The Parisian restaurant Plénitude, by chef Arnaud Donckele, makes history by achieving the maximum hit score and only six months after its opening

Never had such an outpouring of generosity been seen on the part of a guide with a reputation for stinginess. Michelin has just celebrated in Cognac (France) the first face-to-face gala after the pandemic and the first in its history outside of Paris. For the appointment he kept an ace up his sleeve. The Plénitude restaurant, opened just six months ago in a luxurious Parisian hotel at 1,500 euros a room, receives not one, not two, but three stars at the same time. An unprecedented decision that only has one precedent: when in 1933 the red guide began to measure the quality of restaurants with ‘macarons’, it awarded three in its first edition to the legendary Mère Brazier. Big words for Arnaud Donckele, who smashes Joel Robuchon’s record after getting one per year.

The brand new three stars has the kind of workmanship that melts Michelin inspectors. Timeless elegance, luxury without ostentation, modernity without radicalism and a discourse that evokes season, territory and sustainability, without being uncomfortable. All this wrapped in the technical virtuosity of someone who has trained alongside greats of ‘nouvelle cuisine’ such as Michel Guérard or Alain Ducasse.

For the chapter on desserts, Donckele has teamed up with Maxime Frédéric, who finished off the idyll with the Michelin crowning himself as one of the four best pastry chefs in the country. It is worth mentioning that Plénitude, the gastronomic flagship of the Cheval Blanc hotel in Paris, is owned by the luxury conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy, one of the main promoters of the celebrations celebrated these days in Cognac.

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stupor among critics

The decision has caused some stupor among the critics, who expected the rise of Alexandre Gauthier’s creative talent and at least a few macarons for Niko Romito’s space at the Bulgari hotel. The feeling is similar to the one that went through the circles of the Spanish gala after awarding two direct stars to the Madrilenian Smoked Room, by Dani García. Then the international director of the guide, Gwendall Poullenec, justified himself by saying that “inspectors limit themselves to measuring the quality of restaurants, who says that two or even three stars cannot be given at the same time?” Voila!

The winner comes from a native family of Ruan, “country people”. His grandparents were farmers; his father, a butcher passionate about gastronomy. From today his son has a place in history. «Beyond the awards, I cook to transmit emotions, my mother was capable of crying with a plate and my father only talked about hunting and cooking. I think I started in the trade to get his attention », he confesses.

Nine years ago he entered the select club of tri-starred with the restaurant La Vague d’Or, located in the hotel that the Chaval Blanc chain has in Saint Tropez, and six months ago he landed in Paris “with humility” but with a clear goal . “I never thought he would get so high so soon.”


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