Chef sues Michelin guide over "insulting" inclusion

The chef finds the listing humiliating

Updated on 26 November 2019 • Written By Maha Khan

Chef sues Michelin guide over

While many chefs dream of receiving the coveted Michelin star accolade, one chef is suing the guide, claiming it is defamation to be mentioned against his will.

South Korean chef Eo Yun-gwon is furious that his Ristorante Eo has been included in the 2019 edition of the guide without his permission. Ristorante Eo had previously dropped in its ranking within the guide, but the chef maintains that the change was not the impetus behind his humiliation, he just found it insulting to be listed in an “unwholesome, corrupt” guidebook without his consent.

The Italian restaurant's chef is taking action under a South Korean Law against public insult, and has lodged a public criminal complaint against Michelin, deeming them unworthy of making an evaluation. He has also asked Michelin to remove his restaurant from the guide and demanded they explain the rating criteria.

While Eo is not the first to complain about the secretive criteria and selection process for Michelin stars, his lawsuit is unlikely to make any difference, as there needs to be an insulting statement for it to be classified as libel.

Eo Yun-gwon insists the listing is slander, stating that he had clearly refused to be a part of it, but the guide continued to include his restaurant. Yun-gwon dislikes the way Michelin judges restaurants and is fully “against the guide's behaviour of forcibly listing restaurants against their will and without clear criteria."

The Michelin guide is notorious for not having a transparent judgment process, and Eo has taken issue with this, saying that the guide doesn’t honestly portray the restaurants in Seoul, as only 170 are included. The first guide was released for South Korea in 2016, writing about the Ristorante Eo and the Milan-trained chef, "each dish clearly demonstrates his insight into the integrity and simplicity of Italian cooking."

Eo believes the Michelin guide is a “cruel system that forces chefs to work for a year waiting for a test, that they don’t know is coming.” Michelin is yet to publicly comment on the issue and for now, the guide's review of Ristorante Eo remains in print and on its website. 

If you love dining out in Michelin star restaurants, a recent survey has revealed how long you'll have to wait for a table at every Michelin star restaurant in the UK.