Paris CNN  — 

A cheese soufflé, woolly scallops and disappearing noodles were served up as evidence in a courthouse just outside Paris on Wednesday, in a landmark case that could shine a light on the Michelin Guide’s secretive rating system.

French chef Marc Veyrat filed the lawsuit, after his restaurant, La Maison des Bois, based in Haute Savoie, lost its three-star status in January.

Veyrat, known for his signature wide-brimmed black hat, has earned nine stars in all. He wants the court to force the guide to hand over documents to explain the reasons behind his downgrade.

Veyrat is the first chef to have sued the guide – regarded as the Bible of haute cuisine.

The chef’s lawyer, Emmanuel Ravanas, kicked off the hearing by addressing what he called “cheddar gate,” because the Michelin Guide inspector had claimed the restaurant was using the English cheese as an ingredient.

Ravanas defended the chef’s soufflé for 10 minutes saying it was made of Reblochon and Beaufort, two cheeses native to the French Alps.

To illustrate his point Ravanas played a short video showing how the soufflé was prepared.

Veyrat was not in court but his lawyer said he wanted the guide to hand over all the checks to prove the inspectors had actually visited his restaurant.

He also demanded that the names and the resumés of all the people who graded him be handed over.

The guide’s lawyer, Richard Malka, said it was crucial that inspectors remain anonymous.

“There is no legal framework that protects the anonymous nature of our inspectors for gourmet critique but if you take the anonymity away, the critique goes with it,” Malka said.

“You’re asking an employer to burn its employees just to satisfy Veyrat’s ego,” he added.

Earlier this month Veyrat told CNN he had suffered from depression for six months after he was stripped of his third star and that his whole team had cried. He explained why this fight was important to him.

‘Fragile’ artists

French chef Marc Veyrat is suing the Michelin Guide after his restaurant La Maison des Bois was downgraded to two stars.

“For 20 years, I couldn’t sleep for three months in the lead-up to the guide being published because I was so scared I would lose the stars. How is one allowed to do that?” he said.

“Will we do this tomorrow for lawyers, doctors, mechanics, for everyone? That’s why I’m fighting. I’m fighting for the young people, for those who will come after me,” Veyrat said.

As well as suing the Michelin Guide, Veyrat has demanded that his restaurant be removed from the guide entirely.

“I do not need the Michelin Guide, they are not all-supreme! People come to our restaurant for my cuisine and my personality,” he told CNN.

Michelin says while Veyrat’s talent is not in dispute, it insists its first duty is to inform the consumer.

The guide’s international director, Gwendal Poullenec, told CNN a day before the hearing that “chefs are real artists” and some are “proud” and “fragile.”

Poullenec believes Veyrat’s case amounts to emotional blackmail.

“He [Veyrat] is saying. ‘OK, put me in your guide with three stars but not with two stars.’ Is that fair? No. We have to be fair.”

As the hearing came to a close the Michelin Guide’s lawyer, Richard Malka, said Veyrat was experiencing a crisis rooted in “narcissism.”

Malka said Veyrat’s demands went against “the constitutional right to freedom of expression” and if the court were to side with Veyrat it would “open Pandora’s box.”

The guide is asking for 30,000 euros in damages.

A ruling is expected on December 31.

The Veyrat case comes two years after another French chef, Sébastien Bras, announced that he wished to be left out of the 2018 edition of the guide after his restaurant Le Suquet held onto the maximum three-star rating for over a decade.

Bras stated that he could no longer deal with the pressure of meeting the standards expected to maintain the rating.

Le Suquet returned to the guide in 2019 with a two-star rating, to the chef’s reported surprise.

In another controversial move, the Tokyo edition of the guide this week removed all three stars from one of Japan’s most famous sushi restaurants, Sukiyabashi Jiro, because it was no longer possible for ordinary diners to get a reservations.