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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Fewer and fewer starred restaurants in the Pyrénées-Orientales: what’s the problem?

There are only two starred restaurants left in the Pyrénées-Orientales.
There are only two starred restaurants left in the Pyrénées-Orientales. (©Illustration/Adobestock)

The years follow each other and look alike in the Eastern Pyrenees. This Monday, March 6, the famous Guide Michelin unveiled his 2023 winners. Bad news for the department, no chef won the famous star. Worse still, a restaurant loses this distinction, Le Fanal and its chef Pascal Borrell, in Banyuls-sur-Mer.

Pyrénées-Orientales: three chefs lose the Michelin star in two years

After Cellar Inn (Mount) and the Almandine (Saint-Cyprien), this is the third restaurant to be downgraded by the “Red Guide” in just two years. Conclusion, the Pyrénées-Orientales will only count more than two bosses stars this year: The Galinette (Perpignan) and The Balette (Collioure).

To compare, the Aude the neighboring department, accumulates ten stars (including the triple star Gilles Goujon and double stars) for 100,000 inhabitants less. So how to explain this star flight in Catalan Country? News Perpignan asked the question to two local players in the gastronomy and hotel and restaurant sectors.

“It’s not the stars that make a restaurant”

“First, there is the loss of Pascal Borrell’s star. As I took the liberty of telling him, it is not the stars that make a restaurant, but the customers. There are plenty of restaurants which are doing very well but which do not have a star”, confides Brice Sannac from the outset.

The president of the Union des Métiers et des Industries de l’Hôtellerie des Pyrénées-Orientales has to come to terms with it: “It’s an observation, we only have two stars left in the department. We don’t have a double star or a triple star. I can’t be satisfied with this, because it is all the same a recognition”.

A delegation in Paris to meet the Michelin Guide

The boss of UMIH 66 also informs us that a delegation from Pyrénées-Orientales (CCI-Toques Blanches-UMIH) will soon be going to Paris. “We will ask for the specifications of the Michelin Guide. Maybe that last one has evolved. We will try to understand, ”says Brice Sannac.

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For the chef of La Galinette Christophe Comes, who has managed to keep his distinction in the Michelin Guide, the scarcity of starred restaurants in the department is mainly explained by a missed appointment:

In my opinion, we have had difficulty in taking the turn of qualitative tourism. I don’t think we’ve succeeded in bringing high-end customers to our house, and the catering that goes with it.

Christopher ComesRestaurant La Galinette

Mentality and purchasing power of customers?

“And then at home, in the South, customers go out to restaurants a lot. Maybe there is not the same mentality as elsewhere. In other regions, people go out less often but more qualitatively”, also suggests Christophe Comes. An explanation that can be found in part in the words of Brice Sannac.

“We sometimes compare ourselves to Catalonia and its forty stars in the Michelin Guide, but we must not forget that Perpignan is a city of 120,000 inhabitants and that the Pyrénées-Orientales department is one of the poorest in France. We have a part of the population who lives below the poverty line, we cannot have three-stars everywhere, ”explains the latter.

“Let’s stop with mussels and fries and paninis all the time”

And the president of UMIH 66 is far from being defeated: “It’s not the end of the world. We are in the process of reviewing our reception offer in the hotel and catering industry, with establishments that need to move upmarket,” he promises. Positive, he already sees some in the Pyrénées-Orientales:

We have a catering offer that is still of high quality. You take the hyper-centre of Perpignan, towns on the coast like Collioure, but also the mountains… We have quality catering, but which does not find its audience among the customers of the Michelin Guide.

Brice SannacPresident of UMIH 66

His position, he affirms again: “I am for restaurants that are local. Let’s stop with mussels and fries and paninis all the time. I think we can offer catering for less than 20 euros per person and of very high quality. And we have plenty of establishments that are in this perspective, ”concludes Brice Sannac.

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