St. Martin winners show off their awards and hold copies of the 2020 “Gault & Millau Antilles-French Guiana Restaurant Guide” at the awards ceremony held at Anse Marcel Beach Restaurant on Saturday evening. (Robert Luckock photo)



MARIGOT--French St. Martin was honoured in five main categories at the Gault & Millau awards ceremony hosted by Hotel Anse Marcel Beach on Saturday evening, with the Chef of the Year Award appropriately going to Florian Mercadier of Anse Marcel Beach Restaurant.

  The prestigious awards ceremony coincided with the release of the 2020 Gault & Millau Antilles-French Guiana Restaurant Guide. The guide features 259 restaurants in Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barths, St. Martin and St. Lucia, 28 of which are in St. Martin. Due to restaurants still being in a damaged state last year, inspectors were only able to start their visits this year in February.

  More than 15 trophies have been awarded, with Gault & Millau representatives visiting the five islands to present the awards at “Les Soirees de Toques” (Chef’s Hat Awards).

  Being singled out for these awards for excellence can do wonders for a restaurant and its chef’s reputation, adding more cachet to St. Martin’s already impressive distinction as a culinary capital of the Caribbean. Winners are awarded an exclusive “toque” (chef’s hat) emblem, Gault & Millau’s equivalent of Michelin’s one, two, and three stars, and a Gault & Millau plate and certificate.

  St. Martin Tourism Office President Valérie Damaseau was present to give an introduction and presented two of the evening’s awards, the Sommelier (wine butler) of the Year and Culinary Heritage of St. Martin prizes. She said St. Martin’s first edition of a gastronomic food festival will be held in June 2020.

  Damaseau presented the Sommelier of the Year trophy to Stéphane Emorine of Le Cottage Restaurant and the Culinary Heritage of St. Martin prize to former La Samanna Hotel executive chef from two years ago Serge Gouloumes, acclaimed for his consistent use of fresh, locally sourced products.

  Barman of the Year trophy went to Paul Pierru and the Young Talent trophy to Jerôme Droingt of Le Pressoir in Grand Case. It was a double triumph for Anse Marcel Beach Restaurant; it won two trophies, one for Pastry Chef of the Year Colin Sauret, and one for Chef of the Year Mercadier.

  “I can’t believe it, it’s amazing,” exclaimed Mercadier afterwards. “We worked so hard after the hurricane just to get back in business. The last two years have been really difficult for the whole team. But now we are seeing the reward for that hard work. And for our Pastry Chef to be recognised as well, it’s fantastic.”

  Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Sébastien Ripari of Le Bureau d’Etude Gastronomique. He was joined by Gault & Millau representative Alain Warth, President and Head of Partnerships. The evening was also supported by numerous sponsors, and two celebrity chefs: Martinique-born Marcel Ravin of Restaurant Blue Bay, Monaco, and Patrick Jeffroy of Hotel Carantec du Finistere, Brittany. Both chefs have three “toques” each.

  Gault & Millau rates its restaurants on a scale of one to 20, with 20 being the highest. Restaurants given less than 10 points are rarely listed. The points are awarded based on the quality of the food, with comments about service, price or the atmosphere of the restaurant given separately. Based on this rating, high-ranking restaurants may display one to four “toques.”

  Ripari said only two restaurants, both run by Chef Marc Veyrat, have ever received a 20 score – in 2004.