Asia Pacific

Controversy follows launch of Michelin guide 2020 to Seoul

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The fourth edition of the Michelin Guide to Seoul came with two new two-star restaurants and seven additions to the one-star category

No restaurant took the top honour of three stars in the 2020 Michelin Guide to the South Korean capital, published earlier this month, but several establishments were added to the one- and two star categories.

“Our inspectors walked the streets of Seoul and discovered new gems that enrich the selection of starred restaurants. Year after year, our inspectors are delighted to see the increase in high quality cuisine offered by the establishments of the city,” said Gwendal Poullennec, international director of Michelin Guides.

“We have also seen an evolution in the styles of cuisine offered, with chefs that do not hesitate to break the codes to broaden their customers’ culinary experiences.”

Restaurants Gaon and La Yeon retained their three-star status this year again, while Mosu was elevated from one to two stars. New restaurant L’Impression meanwhile entered directly into the list of two-star restaurants, taking the total of two-star establishments to seven.

Star status

But this fourth edition of the Michelin Guide to Seoul has not been without its controversy. Chef Eo Yun-gwon has announced he is suing the Michelin Guide for including his restaurant Ristorante Eo in the 2020 guide.

The chef was originally included after being awarded one star in the first edition of the guide in 2017. He maintained the star in 2018 but lost it in 2019 when it was downgraded to the Plate Listing of restaurants recognised for serving very good food, but not worthy of Bib Gourmand or star status.

Eo says he has repeatedly asked to be left out of the guide, which he considers to be “unwholesome”, claiming that the Michelin inspectors working on the guide to the city only visited 170 restaurants, not enough to produce a genuine evaluation of the Seoul dining scene.

The controversy comes on the heels of Michelin’s rapid expansion into new territories in Asia, raising questions about the inspectors ability to get it right.

And this incident comes just months after French chef Marc Veyrat said he would be suing Michelin after an inspector claimed that a soufflé served at his restaurant contained cheddar cheese – his restaurant La Maison des Bois was also downgraded to two stars from three.

Michelin has previously maintained that restaurants don’t get to decide whether they want to receive stars or not and they have vigorously defended their criteria, always judging the food on the plate, not the surroundings. The five criteria inspectors consider include: quality of the products; mastery of flavour and cooking techniques; the personality of the chef in his cuisine; value for money; and consistency between visits.

Tina Nielsen