Page last updated at 07:40 GMT, Saturday, 20 December 2008

German woman edits Michelin guide

By Hugh Schofield

German food
Will foods like Sauerkraut and Spaetzle go higher up the menu?

A new editor-in-chief of the French edition of the feared Michelin restaurant guide has just been appointed - and to general surprise the job has gone to a German.

Juliane Caspar, a 37-year-old former restaurateur from Bochum in western Germany, is not only the first foreigner to take over at the French edition - she's also the first woman.

A British man - Derek Brown - was until 2004 overall head of the Red Guide, but his job was international and not specific to France.

Ms Caspar's job will be to co-ordinate the Guide's team of anonymous inspectors in France, and decide which restaurants merit the coveted one, two or three stars.

She will only be photographed from behind to protect her anonymity as food taster.

Gastronomic high-priestess

It is a sign of how times have changed that the French - far from resenting a German as their new gastronomic high-priestess - appear to be genuinely delighted.

Guy Savoy, whose restaurant in central Paris has three stars in the latest Michelin, told the BBC that the nomination of a foreigner was a flattering reflection of the way French culinary values still matter in the world.

"The bedrock of gastronomy is here in France. But around the world there are more and more restaurants which are inspired by French cuisine," he says.

"So the appointment of a German is a sign of the ever-greater openness in the world of French cuisine. It's really a global phenomenon."

For people who know about food, Germany's stereotype as a gourmand's nightmare is out of date.

Nine of Michelin's 69 three-starred restaurants now are in Germany, and there is a new generation of ambitious and talented young chefs.

Still, no-one denies that the country's culinary heritage is not exactly mouth-watering.

Good change

Finding a German restaurant in Paris is a challenge - though not impossible.

A young German woman will certainly be more interesting than just another old French man
Francois Simon, Le Figaro food critic

In the 17th arrondissement the small café Stubli is known for its Bratwurst and Apfelstrudel.

"The nomination is a big surprise because Michelin is so very French," says chef Thomas Weibecka, from Bonn.

"But it is a good change. People do not realise that in German regions there is some really great cooking going on - with top-class produce. The cabbage and beer idea is too old."

Ms Caspar's appointment is also seen as a good thing by critics of the Michelin guide, who believe its overweening influence has created an unaffordable super league of restaurants - far removed from the interests of ordinary food-lovers.

"A young German woman will certainly be more interesting than just another old French man," said Le Figaro's food critic Francois Simon.

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