The name or photograph of a Michelin chef on a prepared meal in a supermarket does not guarantee a balanced diet. In France, certain ready-made meals by well-known chefs do not meet their image in terms of quality and are sometimes downright misleading.
Low nutritional scores for star meals
Ready-made meals to which French top chefs attach their name are often no better or more balanced than other food products in the supermarket. Franceinfo Network and Foodwatch have tested 65 of such meals, from Ghislaine Arabians baby pots to stuffed pasta from Thibault Sombardier. Only 24 products get a green Nutri-Score, meaning they have a good nutritional value. Most of the meals studied do not show the Nutri-Score.
In some cases the claims of the Michelin chefs' products are downright misleading. For example, the meal shakes for Feed by two-star chef Thierry Marx (said to be the "Rolls Royce of food") are claimed to be 100% organic. The strawberry variety is not only not organic, the so-called fresh strawberries in the product are freeze-dried as well.
Not “as good as in a quality restaurant”
In other products from renowned top chefs, Foodwatch finds E-numbers that some nutritionists consider dangerous. Other controversial additives, such as palm oil and added sugars were found as well. This goes for Thibault Sombardier's pasta, which the chef praises as "as good as in a quality restaurant". The chef should know, because he himself owns the Michelin-starred Antoine restaurant at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
"The collaboration between a chef and a brand does not necessarily equals quality and does not mean you can rely on it blindly", concludes Ingrid Kragl, information director at Foodwatch France. "They sell you a dream, but when you study the list of ingredients, you will find a gap between what they promise and what you buy.
Collaborations worth thousands to hundreds of thousands of euros
For the manufacturers, the association with a renowned chef adds to an image of quality, Jean-Michel Juillet of meal producer Lustucru Rivoire & Carret admits. Even if the partnership costs them hundreds of thousands of euros: "It is an investment for our brand, not just a few thousand euros. They are considerable sums, but they are amply compensated by the image and commitment of the chef," Juillet continues.
In response to Foodwatch's research, some chefs said they are doing their utmost to get their list of ingredients as clean as possible. They want to improve it further, but claim they are limited by things like shelf life or other requirements for the distribution channel.