“There was no such thing as serious gastronomic journalism,” Mr. Millau told The New York Times in 1978. “Restaurant reviews were a function of advertising.”
The approach was personal and passionate, the style “lean, mean, snappy and witty,” as the British newspaper The Independent put it in its obituary of Mr. Gault. The guide, published in book form beginning in 1972, once described “an absolutely lethal purée of peas and green beans whose strings could be woven into a bulletproof vest.”
Instead of stars, the guide awarded toques, the traditional French chef’s hats, along with a numerical rating from 1 to 20, the same system used in French schools and universities. Although a few restaurants were awarded the maximum five toques, none ever received a rating of 20, on the theory that only God achieved perfection.
In their search for new and exciting young chefs, Mr. Millau and Mr. Gault championed a new style of cooking, practiced by chefs like Michel Guérard, Frédy Girardet and Joël Robuchon, that became known as nouvelle cuisine.
In 1973 the guide issued a manifesto for the new cooking, “Vive la Nouvelle Cuisine Française,” laying down 10 commandments that began “Thou shalt not overcook,” “Thou shalt use fresh, high-quality products” and “Thou shalt lighten thy menu.”
The guide highlighted restaurants adhering to the commandments with red rather than black toques.
By beating the drum for nouvelle cuisine, the guide helped usher in the age of the celebrity chef. Its favorites emerged from the anonymity of the kitchen and, encouraged by the guide, explained their food to the public, making guest appearances on radio and television and publishing cookbooks.
“The revolutionary thing that Millau accomplished with Gault was really the style and the story,” Marc Esquerré, Gault & Millau’s editor in chief, told Le Monde this week. “They brought a human dimension to reviewing and, by acting as an intermediary between the customer and the restaurant owners, did a lot to bring these two worlds together.”
Mr. Millau was born Christian Dubois-Millot on Dec. 28, 1928, in Paris to Paul Dubois and the former Anne Masur, a Russian émigré. The birth was not registered until Jan. 1, leading to…