Michelin allows French chef to withdraw from guide
Famed restaurant guide Michelin has allowed a French chef to formally withdraw his three-Michelin-starred restaurant from its pages – the first chef it has allowed to do so without having closed its doors.
Last year French chef Sebastien Bras announced that he wanted to relinquish his three-michelin stars, which his Le Suquet restaurant in south central France had held for the past 18 years, due to the “huge pressure” of being judged by inspectors.
“You’re inspected two or three times a year, you never know when,” he said at the time. “Every meal that goes out could be inspected. That means that every day one of the 500 meals that leaves the kitchen could be judged. Maybe I will be less famous but I accept that.”
Ahead of the publication of its 2018 guide next week, Michelin’s Claire Dorland Clauzel, a member of its executive committee, confirmed Le Suquet would not feature, saying that it would be “difficult for us to have a restaurant in the guide which does not wish to be in it.”
She added that it was the first time that the guide had received a “public withdrawal of this sort”, with other restaurants dropping out when chefs retired or closed their restaurants, or the concept had changed.
Indeed, Bras is not the first chef to reject a star rating, however it is the first time that Michelin has allowed an operational restaurant to be withdrawn from its pages. In other case, the chefs rejecting a rating have simply closed their doors.
In 1999 Marco Pierre White famously gave back the three-star status of Restaurant Marco Pierre White, retiring from cooking and closing the restaurant. He later dismissed the Michelin rating system telling The Guardian: “The “people who gave me Michelin stars had less knowledge than me. You have to place a value on something that is given to you: that’s why it was so easy for me to walk away. They had no value for me. The day I no longer wanted to be behind my stove, I put my hands up and said: ‘I’m out of here.’ It’s all or nothing with me. I could not live a lie.”
In 2005, the late French chef Alain Senderens closed his three-star Art Nouveau Paris restaurant claiming he had had enough of the pressure to perform and wanted to create “beautiful cuisine without all the tra-la-la and chichi”. Likewise, in 2008, Olivier Roellinger closed his restaurant in the Breton fishing village of Cancale for a quieter life.
Last year Danish chef Rene Redzepi gave up the two stars he won for his Noma restaurant when he closed it in order to move it to another part of Copenhagen, saying it was “necessary to break down a castle in order to build a new one”.
PRESSURE TO PERFORM
The decision to allow Le Suquet to be removed from the guide, given that it is continuing to operate, raises questions as to whether other restaurants, fed up with the expectation of a Michelin experience, might seek to follow suit. While the pressure to retain a star rating has always been present in the ultra-competitive world of the world’s top restaurants, and chefs hand up their spatulas for various reasons, the impact it can have on a chef’s mental wellbeing has been more widely publicised in recent years.
In 2016 French chef Benoît Violier, 44, whose three Michelin-starred Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville in Switzerland was named the “best in the world” in 2015, was found dead at his home after shooting himself with a hunting rifle. It later emerged that he may have been the victim of a £1m fine wine ponzi scheme that had left him in financial difficulty. Violier had been due to attend the launch of the new Michelin Guide France in Paris the following Monday.
Bras himself said that like many chefs he sometimes found himself thinking of Frenchman Bernard Loiseau, who committed suicide in 2003, an act that has been widely linked to rumours that he could lose his third Michelin star.
He added that he was “not in the frame of mind”, but wanted to “start a new chapter” in the restaurant’s history, “without wondering whether my creations will appeal to Michelin’s inspectors”.
Le Suquet, in south central France, will not feature in the guide’s 2018 edition, which will be published next Monday.