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Michelin serves up new French restaurant guide

[PARIS] France's top chefs were waiting nervously by their stoves ahead of the publication on Monday of the renowned Michelin guide and the coveted award of new stars.

Only one thing is known for sure: there will be 609 Michelin-starred restaurants in France in this year's edition, one fewer than last year in the self-styled home of gastronomy.

But the rumour mill has been churning furiously ahead of the guide's unveiling at 11:00am local time (1000 GMT), with many mooting the possibility of a new three-star restaurant in Paris.

Informed gossip from the kitchen has it that Yannick Alleno, who runs the Pavillon Ledoyen in central Paris, will be crowned with three stars.

The 46-year-old won three Michelin stars for his work at Le Meurice in Paris in 2007. The criterion for winning three stars is that the restaurant must serve up "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey." France has 27 three-star restaurants, nine of which are in the capital. The three previous editions of the guide crowned one new three-starred chef each and none in 2011.

Last year, the most coveted accolade in gastronomy went to Arnaud Lallement, of the family-run L'Assiette Champenoise near Reims in northeastern France.

The new guide will be unveiled at the French foreign ministry, which is determined to maintain the country's reputation as the top destination for foodies.