Controversy surrounding Michelin Guide Seoul now shows no signs of abating, as a South Korean chef has accused the fine dining guide of the crime of “insult” for including his restaurant on its list.
On Nov. 15, chef Eo Yun-gwon, 49, who runs modern Italian eatery Ristorante Eo in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, took legal action against Michelin Travel Partner, formally accusing it of insult, which is a crime under Korean law, after the gourmet guide included his restaurant in the Michelin Guide Seoul edition despite his request not to be listed.
(Michelin Travel Partner)
“It is insulting that my name and the restaurant’s name have been listed in an unwholesome book. Though being listed in the Michelin Guide may have a great promotional effect on the restaurant, I don’t want any help from an opaque, subjective company,” the chef told The Korea Herald in a phone interview Thursday.
Though Michelin Guide has been citing independence and fairness of evaluation in refusing the chef’s request, Eo says the guide’s response to his request is out of line.
“The Michelin Guide’s claim may sound sensible at first, but thinking about it once again, it is outrageous. Its inspectors only looked into around 170 restaurants in Seoul. They are unworthy of making an evaluation,” chef Eo said.
The chef added that all he wants the Michelin Guide to do is to abide by its principles.
It is the first time that a Korean chef has taken legal action against Michelin for being listed. Ristorante Eo was given one star in the inaugural 2017 edition and the 2018 edition. In the 2019 edition, it was degraded to a The Plate listing. It remained in the The Plate section in the Michelin Guide Seoul’s 2020 edition, released Nov. 14.
On Nov. 15, Eo posted an announcement via social media saying he had taken legal action against the Michelin Guide for “forcefully listing (my restaurant) as a sidekick (for other restaurants) on the list without having definite standards.”
“To list Eo on the opaque printout is a defamation against the Eo (restaurant) family and its fans,” the statement added.
In his Facebook post, chef Eo said he had sent emails on multiple occasions to the Michelin Guide after his restaurant was first listed in the 2017 edition, stating he wished to be left out of the guide. He also posted a screenshot of an email sent by the Michelin Guide, refusing his request.
Michelin Guide has been a bible of the gastronomy world for more than a century. The Seoul guide was launched in 2016 with the release of the 2017 edition.
Michelin Guide’s public relations representative in Korea, Eos Communications, said the firm had yet to receive official papers.
“Michelin Guide is an independent guide published without influences of partners or restaurants. The principle is to make independent decisions, whether the restaurants request to be included or excluded in the list,” the company said.
Meanwhile, it is not the first time the Michelin Guide has received complaints regarding a star listing.
French chef Marc Veyrat recently sued the Michelin Guide after his restaurant La Maison Des Bois in the French Alps was downgraded to two stars. He requested his restaurant be removed from the guide, citing the inspector’s “incompetence.” The lawsuit was filed after the guide directors refused the request.
In 2017, another French chef, Sebastien Bras of restaurant Le Suquet, gave back its three-star rating, saying the stars placed too much pressure on him. The request was accepted.
At the time, Michelin’s spokesperson explained that other restaurants dropped out when chefs retired or the restaurants’ business models changed.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)