The tallest trees catch the most wind, and that rings true when it comes to the world of chefs, too.
Sébastien Bras has managed to land three Michelin stars during his rise to the top, but now he is actually trying to give them back.
He has asked not to be included in future Michelin guides, books that list all of the restaurants who have achieved the badge of honour, doing so in a Facebook video that you can watch HERE.
Your French will need to be up to scratch, though, so let’s rather head to QZ for the translation:
Against a backdrop of green hills, he explained that he wanted to concentrate on cooking without the pressure of Michelin rankings hanging over his head.
“Today we would like to go forward with a free spirit, to continue serenely, without tension, to maintain our establishment with a kitchen, a welcome, a service which are the expression of our own spirit and of the land,” he said.
The thing about cracking a Michelin star or three is that you’re always being watched and judged, and that can really take away from the love of cooking.
Just ask Bras:
“You’re inspected two or three times a year, you never know when,” Bras said in an interview with AFP. “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.”
That stress can lead to a workplace constantly on edge, but it also has proven effects on psychological health.
A 2014 article in the journal Strategy and Business, written by researchers at the NeuroLeadership Institute, explains further:
…numbers-based performance rankings trigger a “fight or flight” response in workers’ brains, sending them into panic mode and making it difficult for them to actually absorb feedback. Moreover, a ratings system “fosters an incorrect but prevalent view of human growth and learning.” When workers feel pressure to attain the highest ranking possible, they’re more likely to stick to familiar tasks that they know they won’t screw up—and less likely to challenge themselves.
There is historical precedence for the ills that the Michelin star can lead to, with French chef Bernard Loiseau having committed suicide back in 2003.
The New Yorker, in a piece from last year titled “Michelin and the Deaths of Two French Chefs”, says that Loiseau took his own life over fears that his restaurant was going to lose its three-star rating.
At the time, there were rumors [sic] that Loiseau’s restaurant, La Côte d’Or, located in Saulieu, a village in Burgundy, was in danger of losing its third star, and it was widely believed that the possibility of a demotion drove Loiseau to suicide. In the wake of Loiseau’s death, Michelin denied that it had warned the fifty-two-year-old chef that his third star was in jeopardy.
That claim was not exactly true: a few years ago, in the course of researching a book about French food culture, I obtained the minutes of a meeting that Michelin officials had with Loiseau, in the fall of 2002. They told him that they were concerned about the quality of his restaurant’s cooking, and the document described Loiseau as “visibly shocked” by their comments.
I also obtained a follow-up letter that Loiseau’s wife had sent to Michelin, in which she said that the guide’s warning (the word “warning” was underlined) would be heeded and that her husband would dedicate himself to improving the performance of his kitchen. Instead, he killed himself.
I guess it’s a blessing and a curse.
Whatever happened to cooking for the love of it, man?
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