Chef sues Michelin amid allegations of bribery

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th December 2019

South Korean chef and owner of  Yunga-Myunga, Yun Kyoung-suk, is suing the Michelin Guide claiming an inspector offered to exchange stars for money when she was planning her restaurant in 2014. 

Additionally, the chef is pursuing libel charges against Michelin, for publically refuting her bribery claims.

Yun Kyoung-suk told The Korea Times that she was approached by a "monetary consultant" who asked her to pay a 50 million won (£32,000) fee in exchange for three stars. 

In an interview on news channel KBS, she said: "The broker said that our restaurant in Japan received two Michelin stars, but I could easily receive three stars if the restaurant in Korea looked more traditional and provided services of higher quality,”

“I thought I was lucky to receive his help.”

The chef claims that she agreed to open the restaurant in the timeframe given by the inspector, as well as to pay the 50 million won annual fee, but the proposal fell through when she refused to pay for inspectors' accomodation and airfares.

The guide rebuked her allegations, stating they were damaging to its public image and to that of listed restaurants. It admitted to knowing the so-called inspector, but said he was a wine importer with whom it had no contractual agreements. 

Is Michelin in hot water?

Earlier this year, the guide's international director, Gwendal Poullennec, said he wanted to make the inspection process more transparent to make sure impostors couldn't pose as inspectors.

Michelin has gone to long lengths to ensure that its inspectors are independent and that their standards translate across borders - but increased competition from rival guides and accusations of bad practice have tarnished its reputation, begging the question of whether it can remain independent and stand up to the influence of its sponsors.

It is worth bearing in mind that Michelin  is a commercial entity - which recently struck a controversial deal with TripAdvisor - and is increasingly seeking out financing from local and national tourism boards to fund its expansion. 

When it was introduced in Korea in 2015,  an official from the National Assembly of Education, Culture, Sports, and Tourism Committee criticised the state-run Korean Tourism Organization for agreeing to pay around 2 billion won (Just under £1.3 million) to bring the Seoul guide to the country.

Since then, several have claimed to have found errors in the Korean guide, including spelling and factual mistakes.

What's next?

Michelin is pursuing legal action against chef Yun Kyoung-suk, but the chef, refusing to stand down, has asked that the guide vindicate itself by sharing information purporting to its annual selection of restaurants. 

"Michelin picked 60 Korean restaurants for its Bib Gourmand category in its 2020 Michelin Guide Seoul Selection. If so, they need to prove their inspectors came to Korea and paid for the meals themselves." 

"What I need to find out is whether Michelin officials performed their duty in an appropriate way. If it shows all the receipts for the meals, planes and lodgings during their stay for inspections, all controversy linked to the selection would be finished."

What do you think chefs? Do you think believe allegations of corruption against Michelin? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th December 2019

Chef sues Michelin amid allegations of bribery