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Marco Pierre White Turned Down Michelin (Again) at New Singapore Restaurant

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The famed British chef opens the English House this week

Walkers Do Us A Flavour - Launch Party Ian Gavan/Getty Images

British chef Marco Pierre White, an iconoclast who famously renounced the three Michelin stars bestowed upon his self-titled London restaurant, is at it again, asking the Michelin Guide not to send inspectors to his new Singapore restaurant.

That restaurant, the English House, opens this week in a colonial shophouse with a focus on British classics. Ahead of the opening, White told news outlet Channel News Asia that the Michelin Guide had already contacted him to potentially include the restaurant in its Singapore guide, and he turned the offer down. “Because I don’t need Michelin and they don’t need me,” he told the outlet.

Given that the English House was not yet open, there were no guarantees as to how many stars the restaurant might have been awarded, if any. White’s situation at the English House is different than the situation at his restaurants in the ’90s, as he seems to have preemptively asked Michelin not to send inspectors — even though Michelin inspectors typically go in anonymously, and without contacting restaurants ahead of time. Of course, that means Michelin could opt not to comply with White’s request.

This is far from the first time that a chef or restaurateur has said no to Michelin: White himself handed back all of his stars in 1999, including those from Restaurant Marco Pierre White (later named the Oak Room), where he was the youngest chef to earn three stars at the time. He retired from working as a chef, although he later returned as a restaurateur. In 2015, White elaborated on his opinions of Michelin: “The people who gave me Michelin stars had less knowledge than me,” he told the Guardian. “You have to place a value on something that is given to you: that’s why it was so easy for me to walk away. They had no value for me.”

Chefs have cited various reasons for wanting to avoid the Michelin guide in the past, but it typically comes down to one thing: the high pressure that results from stars. Such pressures include the costs of maintaining stars (as with French restaurant Le France), high or unrealistic expectations from customers (earlier this year, chef André Chiang closed his eponymous Singapore restaurant, renouncing his stars in the process), or the excessive workload, for example, as when a Thai street vendor began drawing long lines after earning one star.

But handing back stars isn’t necessarily a straightforward process: As Michelin noted when French chef Sébastien Bras wanted to get his restaurant Le Suquet à Laguiole out of the guide, a representative noted that “the guide isn’t made for restaurateurs, but for customers,” and that it would have to consider Bras’s request. Some restaurateurs get around this by simply closing their restaurant down, or making major changes to service.

However, situations like White’s, where a chef asks inspectors not to visit, seem less common — though it is perhaps a smart move.

Marco Pierre White takes CNA Lifestyle on a tour of his first restaurant in Asia, The English House [E]
Why Chefs ‘Give Back’ Their Michelin Stars [E]
3-Michelin-Star French Restaurant Wants to Be Removed From the Dining Guide [E]
Top Singapore Restaurant Will Close, Asks to Return Michelin Stars [E]