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As director of the famed Michelin Guide, Jean-Luc Naret strikes fear into the hearts of restaurateurs across the world. But this week in Tokyo, the Frenchman was the one doing the fretting.
"When I go back to France, they will say, 'How dare you give more three stars to Tokyo than Paris!'" Naret said during a luncheon at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan on Thursday. "When I go through customs, I will be rejected. 'Go back to your own country. You are not French anymore!'"
The World Cup and Olympics won't happen until next year, but the competition for international bragging rights--food division--has been won by Tokyo. Eleven restaurants here bagged the coveted three-star ranking, Michelin's highest honor, in the just-released 2010 guide, edging out Paris' 10 for most of any city. (New York has four top-ranked restaurants.) In all, Tokyo garnered 261 stars, also tops in the world.
The achievement, coming in the third year that Michelin has ranked establishments here, has been heralded as proof that Tokyo is now the culinary capital of the world. And that has angered the food-loving French, where the Michelin Guide was born and where culinary sophistication is taken as a birthright. Some French sympathizers have pointed out that Tokyo has 160,000 restaurants--four times as many as Paris.