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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Citing 'huge pressure', Michelin lets top French chef Sebastien Bras pull out of guide

Bras said he could no longer put himself through the ordeal of knowing that one below-par dish could cost him his reputation

Sebastien Bras, chef of the three-star restaurant Le Suquet, has asked not to be included in the Michelin Guide starting in 2018, to ease off on pressure. The upcoming 2018 Michelin guide will be unveiled on February 5, 2018. AFP
Sebastien Bras, chef of the three-star restaurant Le Suquet, has asked not to be included in the Michelin Guide starting in 2018, to ease off on pressure. The upcoming 2018 Michelin guide will be unveiled on February 5, 2018. AFP

The Michelin guide allowed a top French restaurant to bow out of its listings Tuesday after its chef said he no longer wanted to cook under the "huge pressure" of being judged by its inspectors.

It is the first time it has ever allowed a restaurant to withdraw from its pages.

Sebastien Bras, whose Le Suquet restaurant in the rural Aveyron region has held the maximum three-star rating from the gastronomic bible for 18 years, told AFP in September that he could no longer put himself through the ordeal of knowing that one below-par dish could cost him his reputation.

"It is difficult for us to have a restaurant in the guide which does not wish to be in it," Claire Dorland Clauzel of Michelin told AFP.

"It is the first time we have had a public withdrawal of this sort," she added, saying other restaurants had dropped out when chefs retired or the concept had changed.

Le Suquet, at Laguiole in south central France, will not feature in the guide's 2018 edition, which will be published next Monday, Dorland Clauzel confirmed.

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Bras, 46, caused shock waves worldwide when he announced he was relinquishing the three stars currently held by an elite club of 27 French restaurants.

"You're inspected two or three times a year, you never know when. Every meal that goes out could be inspected," he told AFP.

"That means that every day one of the 500 meals that leaves the kitchen could be judged.

Agony of perfection

"Maybe I will be less famous but I accept that," said the chef, who took over the famed restaurant from his father a decade ago.

He said he wanted to "start a new chapter" in its history "without wondering whether my creations will appeal to Michelin's inspectors".

Bras confessed that like "all chefs" he sometimes found himself thinking of fellow Frenchman Bernard Loiseau — who committed suicide in 2003, an act widely seen as linked to rumours that he would lose his third Michelin star.

But "I'm not in the frame of mind", he insisted.

Bras is not the first chef to walk away from the ultra-competitive world of Michelin-star cooking.

A handful of French restaurateurs have relinquished their prized three-star status.

In 2005, the late Alain Senderens — one of the pioneers of Nouvelle Cuisine — closed his three-star Art Nouveau Paris restaurant claiming he had enough of the agony of perfection and wanted to do "beautiful cuisine without all the tra-la-la and chichi".

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Three years later, Olivier Roellinger closed his luxury eatery in the Breton fishing village of Cancale, saying he wanted a quieter life.

And last year Danish chef Rene Redzepi forfeited 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".