Michelin chef hands back stars

Hoping for an easier life, Chef Olivier handed back his Michelin stars and closed shop.

by: Reuters Television | 06 Jan 2009

French chef Olivier Roellinger handed back his three Michelin stars to his restaurant Le Relais Gourmand on France's Brittany coast and closed up shop, hoping for an easier life.

After 24 years in the Michelin guidebook, Roellinger, 53, said problems with his leg meant he could no longer be on his feet all day, running his restaurant that boasts the top Michelin rating after starting as a guest house and restaurant in 1982.

His skilful marriage of local seafood, with the area well known for its oysters, and South Asian spices, earned the restaurant a Michelin star in 1984 and a second in 1988.

"We obtained the third star in 2006, which was marvellously satisfying. I was 50 years old, and already had physical problems, a leg problem, and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to continue for very long," he said.

Roellinger, who closed the Le Relais Gourmand on December 15, said his physical problems stemmed from an attack in Cancale in 1976 by a gang of youths who beat him with iron bars and left him for dead.

He spent the following two years recovering then launched a career as a chef, becoming the only chef to run a restaurant in Brittany with three Michelin stars.

The Relais Gourmand will close, but Roellinger and his wife Jane will continue to operate other eateries and shops that are part of their Maisons de Bricourt company, such as the bistro restaurant Le Coquillage which includes a cooking school, spice shop, bed-and-breakfast, and a bakery.

Roellinger is the fourth three-star Michelin chef in France to renounce his stars, following Joel Robuchon, Alain Senderens and Antoine Westermann.

This has sparked talk that the excessive pressure of measuring up to Michelin standards is forcing some great chefs out of their kitchens.

Roellinger said he was not comfortable with the idea of being responsible for serving three-star cuisine but letting someone else do the work.

"It would make me feel dishonest," he said, adding that his personal life had also suffered over the years.

"I have never been at a family dinner, I missed my kids' first communion ceremonies ... I was in front of my stove, and not with my family. I owe it to myself to close the restaurant."

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