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Jean-Luc Naret's Beautiful, Tear-Filled Morning

This morning was especially poignant for French director of The Michelin Guides Jean-Luc Naret because he recently gave notice that he's stepping down from his post at the end of the year. So this was one of the last times he'll personally call chefs to deliver the good news about their new stars in his charmingly thick French accent. We caught up with Jean-Luc this morning just after he finished up today's emotional phone session, delivering news of 2011's new star set.

You've had quite a morning. How'd it go? It's the most beautiful thing telling chefs about their stars. This morning I woke up at 5 a.m. but I didn't leave my bed. I'm a big jet-lagged from my trip to Tokyo. I started calling the chefs at 8 a.m. and it always creates a lot of reaction. There are tears. It's the best part of my job.

Was there any reaction that stood out? Every chef has a lot of emotion. I called Christopher and he was not saying anything. He was totally speechless, so emotional. That's why I love calling the chefs. They will all remember this call for a very long time.

Who did you call first? I started with Alexander's Steakhouse and then the rest of the one stars. I saved calling Christopher at Meadowood until last.

I know it's not the best part of the day, but how do you notify those that have lost their stars? Do you call those restaurants too? We make the call to chefs that have gone from three stars to two stars, but we don't call if they lose one star. There's always a reason for losing a star. Maybe the restaurant is losing focus or there is inconsistency. But it doesn't mean they won't get it back.

Your team mentioned they spend a year studying this region for the guide. Is this a longer period of time than other regions, like New York? Yes, we usually spend a year to 18 months here because the region is so large. There is lots of driving and then we get stuck in traffic (laughs).

Anything else you want to share? Well this morning was the best part of the day and tonight we can celebrate at the Spanish Suite [at the Clift Hotel] with all the chefs. Underground chefs will cook for the winners and it will be a very nice end to the day.

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[Photo: FoodGal]