Seeing Stars; Seeing Double

The Guide Michelin's three-star ranking has always meant food "worth a journey." But that phrase got a twist Monday as France's most prestigious restaurant ranking conferred three stars on both of chef Alain Ducasse's restaurants, Louis XV in Monaco and Alain Ducasse in Paris.

Ducasse, who flies twice a week between locations, had been quite vocal about being awarded a total of only five stars last year. "They punished my team in Monaco," he said after the guide granted his brand-new Parisian restaurant an unprecedented three stars in its first year but knocked the established Louis XV back to two. "I am the only chef promoted and the only chef demoted."

This year, the story was different. "He really proved to us he can provide top table at two restaurants at the same time," guide director Bernard Naegellen told the Associated Press.

Two other restaurants were granted three stars this year: Pierre Gagnaire in Paris and Jardin des Sens in Montpellier. For Gagnaire, who came to Los Angeles last month to cook a weeklong series of dinners at L'Orangerie, it was sweet revenge after having been driven into bankruptcy in 1996 trying to create a dining oasis in the Central France town of St. Etienne. Jardin des Sens is run by twin brothers Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, who at 33 are the youngest chefs ever to earn three stars.

* Star News

Times Paris correspondent John-Thor Dahlburg gauges the reaction in France to the Guide Michelin's newest three-star chefs. Main News, Section A.

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