The Pressure of Michelin

Interesting, though brief, piece on a chef asking for Michelin to stop ranking his restaurant.

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Marco Pierre White was an early “resigner” from Michelin 3 stardom. He was said to have “handed back” his three stars in 1999. Of course, you don’t actually “hand back” the award, you just say “please don’t come and judge me anymore” but that doesnt have the same PR chutzpah.

White now seems to earn his living in the UK advertising stock cubes.


Wow, even the Bras “denounced” the Michelin!

A few French 3 stars chef had handed back the stars in recent years, including Olivier Roellinger in 2008, Alain Senderens (Lucas Carton) in 2007. Even Joël Robuchon has handed back the 3 stars in 1996… when he announced his “retirement”. But they were still in the guide, usually the grade dropped to 2 stars or 1 star.

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I know that is his claim to fame. But didn’t he close Harvey’s at that time and go for less expensive food and start putting his name on lots of hotel restaurants and semi-chains?

But like MPW were they not all associated with restaurant closures and/or reopening less formal places…?

Bras seems to be intending to carry on in much the same way - which seems a little odd as it seems to say: if we have a few off days and we are inspected (anonymously) it doesn’t matter because we don’t want the stars anyway.

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Yes. I recall he had his name above the door of a couple of shortlived gastro-pubs in the northwest. There was also the MPW Steakhouse mini-chain. We went to the one in Chester in 2012. It was fine as far as a Brit steakhouse goes - OK but not up there with Hawksmoor or Gaucho. And everything was a couple of quid dearer than you’d have expected.

That leads to some speculations:
1/ To maintain a 3 stars establishment, it is impossible to lower the price of the “club entrance”, everything need to be perfect. Maybe with the present economy, they don’t have enough clients to fill the restaurant. They are in a very remote location.

2/ They are worried that one day the bad news of less stars will be a bigger disaster for the restaurant group. They prefer to be “outside” the system.

3/ Can it be that Sebastien Bras has a different vision of haute cuisine? It was the father Michel Bras who earned the 3 stars and the fame, the son has kept it for another 10 years, now he wants to do it differently. Maybe he wants to open more restaurants in other parts of the world? (They have Toyo in Japan.) I wonder, as other 3 stars chefs, they are already venturing in the business while keeping the stars, e.g. Ducasse, Alléno…

But the demand of not included in the guide is strange, as the red guide is targeted to give information of restaurants to clients.

This came out in 2010 , I think but still worth a watch. It shows the pressure that the stars system can put on chefs.MPW appears on it and as you can imagine is less than complimentary about Michelin.

Watch “Michelin Stars The Madness of Perfection” on YouTube

I think I saw that documentary when it was on TV (but I’ll have another look at it).

Interesting that Marcus Wareing features. We ate at his restaurant in 2015. It was an almost faultless meal and one that was the epitome of Modern British cooking - top quality ingredients cooked expertly and cleverly, but without too many cheffy bells & whistles. It showed how it can be done and gain two stars.

I contrast that with a 2* meal we had in Belguim which was overly complex with just about every foam and faff that you can imagine. Yes, you admire the skill but it was not really a meal that you enjoyed for enjoyment’s sake.

Here is what happens in a nutshell:

The guy on the ground is a sous chef in a one star…

Let’s go slow! Let’s go fast! Michelin Man gonna whoop yo ass!

From the NYT:
“Food should be about love — not about competition,” he said. “All I want is to welcome people to my restaurant during the day, or during the night under a sky filled with stars.”