A French chef, Sébastien Bras who runs the three Michelin star restaurant Le Suquet restaurant in Laguiole, France, has asked the Michelin guide to be stripped of the prestigious ranking because at 46, he wants to give a new meaning to his life and to redefine what is essential.
“I have reflected on a quote and it captures my current spirit to focus on what is essential in life. I want to give a new meaning to my professional and personal life away from the constraints and pressures,” the world renowned chef said.
This has placed Michelin in unchartered territories. There has never been a French chef who has asked the guide to strip the restaurant of its stars. In previous cases, the restaurants had changed considerably and therefore Michelin was forced to recognise such a change.
The French chef that he took the decision together with his family. “I took over the restaurant from my father 10 years ago and the restaurant has been a source of great satisfaction for us. Since 1999 we have three Michelin stars but this has also put us under a lot of pressure,” he said.
Bras added that while he is grateful for Michelin, today he wants to be free, to cook serenely and continue to innovate and serve his guests without any pressures or constraints.
“I am therefore asking Michelin to remove the stars for their 2018 guide and also not to give me any stars in future,” he said.
“For me, it is time to close a chapter and reopen one where I get out of this race and competition and focus on just satisfying our clients, working with my team to showcase our region with the objective of our team remaining the pursuit of excellence,” he said.
He announced his decision in a Facebook video. Michelin said it was the first time a French chef had asked to be dropped from its restaurant guide in this way, without a major change of positioning or business model.
Reacting to his decision Claire Dorland Clauzel, a member of the French tyremaker’s executive committee, said: “We note and we respect it.” She said the request would not lead to Le Suquet’s automatic removal from the list, and would have to be given due consideration because their loyalty was to their readers. “The guide isn’t made for restaurateurs, but for customers,” she was quoted as saying
Bras is one of only 27 French chefs who hold top rankings in the Michelin restaurant guide. In 2005 Paris restaurateur Alain Senderens shocked the culinary world by giving back his three stars, claiming that diners were turned off by excessive luxury. He reopened the restaurant under another name, with a simpler menu at a fraction of his old prices.
In 2008, three-star chef Olivier Roellinger closed his luxury restaurant in the Breton fishing village of Cancale, saying he wanted a quieter life.
Over the past years, Michelin has been criticised for its power to make or break restaurants, careers and even chefs. It has also come up for heavy criticism for the lack of transparency in its criteria and for favouring a certain approach to cooking and service which might no longer be relevant. On the occasion of the launch of the Belgian guide, they had refused to answer our questions relating to the publication of the guide, questions that become more relevant today in the face of this decision.
Practically all the persons commenting under his Facebook video applauded the chef’s decision. Could this be the start of a movement for chefs to regain power and dignity by being able to cook serenely and without constraints and pressures that apply in today’s world?