French chef Sébastien Bras wants to give up the three Michelin stars held by his rural restaurant in the south of France, Le Suquet à Laguiole (some 130 miles northwest of Montpellier). Bras has headed up the restaurant for 10 years, taking over from his father, the legendary chef Michel Bras, who’s credited with pioneering vegetable-focused haute cuisine. According to a report from Agence France-Presse (via Le Monde), Michel Bras agrees with the decision.
According to AFP, Bras and team are looking to relieve the pressure of expectations that the three-star rating brings. “This was a beautiful challenge and a source of great satisfaction… but there’s a huge pressure as a result of our three-star status, which we’ve held since 1999. Today, we want to proceed with a free spirit and without stress, to offer a cuisine and service that represents that spirit and our land.”
In another version of the story appearing in Le Figaro, Bras referred to the suicide of chef Bernard Loiseau in 2003, which was reportedly provoked by reports that his restaurant, La Côte d’Or, might lose one of its three stars. Bras said while he “is not in that kind of headspace,” it was indicative of the immense pressure of keeping up a restaurant’s rating.
On previous occasions in other countries, chefs have given up their restaurants’ stars (for example, Spain’s Casa Julio), although Michelin executive committee member Claire Dorland-Clauzel called it “a first” for the guide, possibly referring specifically to the Michelin Guide for France. Other chefs in France have in effect yielded their restaurants’ stars in the past, either by closing down or changing concepts.
It’s a big deal in France — although Japan has more three-starred restaurants, Michelin stars hold major cultural clout in a country that effectively prays at the altar of renowned, star-wielding chefs like Joël Robuchon.
In response to the request, Dorland-Clauzel noted that the process isn’t as simple as a restaurant renouncing its stars, and that while the request would be considered, it isn’t guaranteed: “The guide isn’t made for restaurateurs, but for customers.”
Dorland-Clauzel added that the pressure that Bras was invoking as a reason for the request is a key part of culinary excellence, in the eyes of the Michelin guide.