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Chef wins Michelin star two months after restaurant closes

It was good news/bad news for French chef Max Bichot on Monday. He learned that he had been awarded a Michelin star… two months after his restaurant went out of business.

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Bichot, who closed Les Hêtres at Ingouville near the Channel coast on 30 December, put a positive spin on the situation.

“I’m very pleased,” he said. “It’s an award that lots of chefs hope to win.”

But he ruefully admitted that the award from the prestigious guide might have saved his restaurant.

“Lots of people wake up [to your existence] once you have a star,” he commented, pointing out that his cooking is no better now than it was before Michelin recognised its qualities.

Michelin's scout was particularly impressed by Bichot’s mackerel marinated in white wines and citrus fruit juice.

It may be possible to taste this marvel again – not at a Bichot-owned restaurant since he has no plans to reopen, but at Le Pichet, a restaurant run by his partner, Evelyne Carniche, in the Loire valley.

The news of the late-arriving award will probably not help to a campaign launched to better promote French cuisine in the face of claims that it has lost its pride of place in the culinary pecking order to fashionable chefs in Spain and Scandinavia.

The Trade Ministry has launched a campaign under the slogan “So French, so good” which will target 12 countries, doubtless hoping to build on Unesco's recognition of French cuisine as part of the world's cultural heritage.

Fifteen top chefs have demanded more support from the government for the sector, which had a 50-billion-euro turnover in 2009.

A survey by market researchers NPD found that it suffered a 0.5 per cent fall in 2010 for the second year running, with traditional restaurants receiving 2.3 per cent fewer visits. The only good news was for fast food, which saw a 0.2 per cent improvement.

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