Professional chefs sure do face a lot of pressure. Between the hustle and bustle of getting food out, nit-picky customers and some of the stiffest competition (and longest hours) around, it’s definitely not a gig for the faint of heart.
So when a chef is somehow able to rise to the occasion and land one of those coveted Michelin stars for his or her food, it’s pretty much the highest honour around. The guide, which has been assessing the culinary world for years, gives chefs one star for a “very good restaurant,” two stars for an eatery that’s “worth a detour” and three stars for “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.”
According to The Telegraph, Michelin hasn’t ever let a restaurant give up their stars willingly while serving the same type and quality of food. Until now, that is.
French chef Sebastien Bras has held three Michelin stars for his restaurant, Le Suquet, for the past 18 years. But last September, he decided that enough was enough, and opted to give up the rating. Even more surprisingly, Michelin allowed him to do so.
“It is difficult for us to have a restaurant in the guide which does not wish to be in it,” a spokesperson for the guide told AFP News agency, pointing out that in its history other restaurants had only dropped out when the chefs retired or the entire menu and concept behind he place had changed.
So why exactly did a 46-year-old with such a renowned culinary reputation decide he no longer wanted to sit at the top? The sheer pressure of it all, of course.
“You’re inspected two or three times a year, you never know when,” Bras stated. “Every meal that goes out could be inspected. That means that every day one of the 500 meals that leaves the kitchen could be judged.”
Furthermore, Bras explained that he sometimes thought of another famous French chef, Bernard Loiseau. The man took his own life in 2003 after landing three stars after 10 years of hard work, and his death was rumoured to have something to do with potentially losing his third star.
Yeah, that’s certainly a high level of pressure to deal with. And when it’s put that way, you can kind of see why Gordon Ramsay blows his gasket on those reality shows for sub-quality fare, huh?
All things considered, it’s pretty damned impressive that Bras was able to retain his status for nearly two decades. Not only would he have had to ensure that all his staff were well-trained to dole out signature dishes in his absence, but he also probably had to make sure that any new dishes he conceptualized over the years met the organization’s high standards.
And when guests are paying nearly $350 for a fixed menu, high standards are definitely expected with every… single… bite.
So what are those “Michelin” standards, you ask?
Well first of all, the restaurant in question has to land in one of the regions that Michelin actually covers. Singapore for example, only just qualified for reviews as late as 2016. Then, the organization compiles information based on all the best-reviewed restaurants around, makes a shortlist and then sends anonymous inspectors out to evaluate the food.
To put it into perspective, in France – a country known for its culinary skill and quality – only 27 restaurants actually have three Michelin stars.
Now, without having to wonder whether his latest dishes will appeal to inspectors, Bras hopes to be “less famous” so he can focus on the most important part of the job: his inherent love of food.