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Welsh restaurant hands back Michelin star

A Welsh restaurant that has held a Michelin star for the past seven years is handing back the accolade in order to ‘to focus on family’, following in the footsteps of French chef Sebastien Bras and Marco Pierre White in passing over the culinary institution.

Sarah, Kathryn & Stéphane

The Checkers in Montgomery, Powys, has held a Michelin star since 2011. However ahead of the 2019 edition, on 1 October, the family that owns the restaurant has decided to hand back their coveted award, saying they no longer want to be featured in the guide. 

Sarah and her partner Stephane Borie founded the restaurant with Sarah’s sister, Katheryn Francis. On announcing their decision, the trio said that they were “putting family first”. Sarah and Stéphane have three young children, while Kathryn is also a mother of two.

As reported by the BBC, Ms Francis said: “I don’t know how we’ve done it for all these years, juggling the kids with working split shifts and late hours. It has been a joy to have the star and the most amazing news when we got it. It was great for trade and brilliant for the town.

“But more for us, it’s about taking the business in a new direction and putting our family first. It means we can work in the day and have our evenings to ourselves.”

Mr Borie is set to expand his culinary business for private clients across Europe, while Sarah and Kathryn Francis are planning to re-launch the restaurant in November as Checker Pantry, open for breakfast and lunch as well as luxury bed and breakfast accommodation.

“It was an emotional decision because we have absolutely treasured our star,” said Ms Francis. “We’ve loved getting it, loved keeping it and always nervous every year as to whether we were going to be in the guide. So to give it back was a big decision but ultimately the right one.”

The Checkers follows in the path of French chef Sebastien Bras, who announced last year that he wanted to relinquish the three-Michelin stars attached to his Le Suquet restaurant in south central France, which he had held for the past 18 years.

He cited the “huge pressure” of being judged by inspectors as the reason for handing back the award.

It was the first time that the Michelin guide had allowed a chef to formally withdraw from its pages, without having to close its doors.

“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. Thatmeans 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.”

Marco Pierre White

In 1999 Marco Pierre White famously gave back the three-stars that he gained at the Oak Room in at Le Méridian Piccadilly hotel back in 1999, retiring from cooking and closing the restaurant.

In September of this year White once again showed his distaste for the institution, rejecting a request by Michelin to include his first restaurant in Asia, The English House, within its Singapore guide.

“I don’t need Michelin and they don’t need me. They sell tires and I sell food,” he told CNA Lifestyle.

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 Michelin-starred 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”.

The entrants of the 2019 Michelin guide will be announced on 1 October.

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