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01/03/2007 - par Mark Tungate

Iread this week in the ­International Herald ­Tribune that top Paris restaurant Taillevent has lost one of its three Michelin stars. It is now merely a two star restaurant (which is not bad, let's face it). But the restaurant is still a star in my book, because it has demonstrated a first class grasp of the art of public relations. When I started reading the article, I was thinking : « Aha, another over-priced restaurant gets what it deserves ! Good ! » But then I read this quote by the owner of the restaurant, Jean-Claude Vrinat : « Sometimes a kick in the behind is a good motivator. It'll give us a second youth, since we go from being an institution to a challenger. »

Bravo, Jean-Claude ! Instantly I wanted to lay down my pen and rush off to Taillevent to see what the restaurant would do to prove its critics wrong. Jean-Claude's honesty and optimism charmed me utterly. This is what great public relations is all about : snatching an opportunity from a crisis.

You will recall that one French chef who found himself under pressure from his critics, Bernard Loiseau, shot himself in the head. This is less crazy than it might seem, given that the loss of a Michelin star can dramatically affect a restaurant's income. But it seems that Taillevent is unwilling to let these overstuffed critics have the last laugh. More than anything, though, this is not a lesson in cuisine - but in how not to get barbecued by the press.

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