Sat, Jan 26, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Michelin gives stars back to chef who didn’t want them

Sebastien Bras cited the ‘huge pressure’ that came with Michelin recognition when he asked to be left out of the guide

AFP, TOULOUSE, France

French chef Sebastien Bras in September, 2017, works in the kitchen of his three-star restaurant Le Suquet, in Laguiole, southern France, after announcing that he asked not to be included in the Michelin Guide starting from last year.

Photo: AFP

A French chef who had shocked the culinary world by handing back his Michelin stars was stunned Monday to find himself back in the prestigious guide’s new edition.

Sebastien Bras cited the “huge pressure” that came with Michelin recognition when he asked in September 2017 for his three-star restaurant Le Suquet to be left out of last year’s guide.

Michelin agreed, with the company’s then brand manager Claire Dorland Clauzel saying: “It is difficult for us to have a restaurant in the guide which does not wish to be in it.”

Bras spent the following year rustling up inventive French cuisine at his restaurant in the town of Laguiole, in the rural Aveyron region, without worrying whether it was meeting Michelin’s exacting standards.

But on Monday the 47-year-old said he was “surprised” to see the restaurant back in the 2019 guide, with two stars. “This contradictory decision has left us with doubts, even if in any case we no longer worry about either the stars or the strategies of the guide,” he said.

“I made my position clear last year and I still feel the same — still, and more than ever, enjoying the confidence of our clients.”

Bras took over the kitchen at Le Suquet from his father Michel a decade ago.

The elder Bras had held three Michelin stars since 1999, and his son said that knowing a single below-par dish could cost him his reputation had created unbearable pressure as a chef.

“You’re inspected two or three times a year, you never know when,” he said in 2017.

“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,” he said of dropping out of the Michelin guide.

SHOCK LOSERS

Michelin promised to celebrate more female chefs and young talent in its 2019 guide of the best restaurants in France, being presented in full on Monday.

In one of the biggest shocks, star Alpine chef Marc Veyrat lost his third star, along with a restaurant that has held three stars for 51 years.

Manager Danielle Baumann Haeberlin confirmed the bad news for the Auberge de L’Ill, calling it “a sad day for Alsace,” the region where the family has run an inn for 150 years.

“It’s hard for the team, it’s hard for everyone — the customers, the family,” her brother, chef Marc Haeberlin, told France 3 Alsace television.

“I don’t know how to explain this loss,” said Haeberlin, whose culinary mentor, the legendary chef Paul Bocuse, died a year ago.

Veyrat, known as much for his ever-present wide-brimmed black hat as his love of mountain ingredients, confirmed that his restaurant the Maison des Bois had also lost its third star.

“I’m terribly disappointed. I can’t understand it at all,” said Veyrat, who earned the coveted third star only last year.

“I will stay combative and stand by the team in my kitchen,” Veyrat said, blasting the decision as “unfair”.

Pascal Barbot, whose Parisian restaurant l’Astrance has held three stars for 11 years, is also dropping down a notch to two stars.

The guide’s new international director Gwendal Poullennec had promised to breathe new life into its pages this year.

A record 75 restaurants have earned new spots in the one, two or three star rankings for this year he said last week.

Michelin’s feared reviewers have “managed to unearth talents in all corners of France” for the new edition, he promised, while a large number of foreign chefs working in France are also honored.

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