A small-town French chef has voluntarily given up one of the culinary world’s most coveted accolades: Chef Jérôme Brochot of Le France, a hotel restaurant in the town of Montceau-les-Mines in the Burgundy region, has returned his Michelin star because he can no longer afford to maintain it, the New York Times reports.
Montceau, a fading mining town with a population of around 20,000, has an unemployment rate hovering around 20 percent. With business down, Brochot had to cut his kitchen staff from six to three, meaning fewer hands to execute intricate Michelin-caliber plates. Since giving up his star back in November, Le France has pivoted from a $130 prix-fixe to a more inexpensive menu, and Brochot says business is up; he’s also saving on food costs by using less expensive ingredients.
Of course, it’s not the first instance of stars being handed back to Michelin: As Eater’s Hillary Dixler Canavan wrote earlier this year, numerous chefs from Marco Pierre White to Sébastien Bras have done just that. Reasons for doing so have varied, but tend to hinge on a general exasperation with the fine-dining world and wanting to retool their restaurants into something more casual, without the lofty expectations that Michelin recognition brings.
For Brochot, who runs not a famed three-star temple of gastronomy but rather a modest, one-star restaurant which likely relies on its inclusion in the Michelin guidebook to drive traffic, the move seems driven mainly out of economic desperation.
“The economic situation here in the ex-mining basin is a disaster,” Mr. Brochot wrote to Michelin, per the Times. “What I’m doing today, I’m not doing lightly, but because I have no other choice.”