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Sebastien Bras asks to be stripped of Michelin stars: What Singapore’s top chefs think

Chefs Julien Royer, Sam Aisbett, Kirk Westaway and Rishi Naleendra talk about the pressure of maintaining their Michelin stars.

  • The entrance to three-Michelin-starred Le Suquet restaurant in Laguiole, France (photo: Julien Royer)

Last week, renowned chef Sebastien Bras, who runs three-Michelin-starred Le Suquet restaurant in Laguiole, France, requested the removal of his prestigious stars. The chef’s reason was said to be due the immense pressure on being judged year in, year out by anonymous reviewers.

The following chefs who run Michelin-starred restaurants in Singapore tell us what they think of Bras’ decision.

Julien Royer, chef-owner, Odette, National Gallery 

  • Julien Royer at Odette, National Gallery
    Julien Royer at Odette, National Gallery

What was your reaction when you first heard the news about Sebastien Bras?
I saw his video of the announcement on the restaurant’s Facebook page, and although I was surprised by the news, I thought it was a sincere, heartfelt and honest speech. And I loved Camille Belguise’s quote (“In silence and solitude, one can hear nothing but the essential”).

You’ve just had a meal there a few weeks ago. What do you think of the dining experience?
It was absolutely perfect. You feel lots of emotions from the meal and also enjoy great hospitality. Every detail is extremely well thought-out. It’s really a legendary restaurant in a magnificent setting.

Do you think at his level having maintained his three stars for so many years, this was a wise decision?
There’s no right or wrong answer. This is his and his wife’s (Veronique who is working with him) decision and it should be respected as such.

How have Michel and Sebastien Bras inspired you in your culinary career?
I have always said Michel Bras is one of my biggest inspirations and mentor. I’m so thankful I had the chance to work with him. And of course I was impressed by Sebastien and Le Suquet’s team work when I tried their food this summer and stayed in one of the beautiful rooms there.

Has it been very stressful for you and your team when it comes to getting/maintaining Odette’s two stars?
Personally what I think  can be stressful is to stay always busy and relevant – to still have the restaurant not only full but with lots of returning customers who love our food. And to still have a team that’s strong like family. I am very lucky to have a great team sharing the same commitment.

How important is it for you to maintain your Michelin stars?
We focus on delivering the simple, genuine pleasures of enjoying a meal, and any award we receive as a result of our efforts is appreciated as an affirmation of our hard work.

Kirk Westaway, chef de cuisine, JAAN, Swissôtel The Stamford

  • Chef Kirk Westaway Jaan
    Chef Kirk Westaway of one-Michelin-star Jaan at Swissotel

What was your first thought when you heard the news?
It was definitely a shock. Chef Sebastien is part of one of the most iconic restaurants in the world.

Do you think at his level having maintained his three stars for so many years, this was a wise decision on his part?
I think by maintaining the three stars for so long, he has, in fact, proven himself. I think as shocking as the news was, we need to respect his decision at the end of the day. It is important to enjoy what you do and clearly Chef Sebastien felt the pressure affecting him negatively.

As a chef do you understand where Sebastien Bras is coming from?
I understand where he is coming from. There is a lot of pressure already from just running a restaurant but to run a Michelin starred restaurant is even more. At this point in my career, I am still very much driven by the pressure but I can understand Chef Sebastien’s point of view might be a little different having been in the industry for far longer.

Has it been very stressful for you and your team when it comes to getting/maintaining Jaan’s star?
The star was definitely a result of hard work and dedication from our team. There is no reason for what we are doing if we are not moving forward, so we will definitely continue challenging ourselves to gain more stars.

Sam Aisbett, chef-owner Whitegrass, Chijmes

  • Sam Aisbett, chef-owner of Whitegrass
    Sam Aisbett, chef-owner of Whitegrass which received its first star this year


What do you think when you first heard the news?
It’s big news, but it’s not the first time this has happened. Marco Pierre White gave up all his stars years ago.

Do you think this was a wise decision on Sebastien Bras’ part?
It’s such an established restaurant, and I think a majority of people eat at his restaurant not because he has three stars, but because the food is amazing and service impeccable. So I don’t think he is concerned about any impact when he decided to drop his stars.

As a chef do you understand where Sebastian Bras is coming from?  i.e his decision to have his stars removed?
Yes. It’s amazing to win any award and be recognised, but winning accolades comes with a high amount of judgement and adds a huge amount of pressure to an already high pressure industry.

Has it been very stressful for you and your team when it comes to getting a star?
Not for me, because I don’t take this too seriously.  My focus is on building the restaurant and being creative and giving an amazing experience to our guests.  If accolades come, that’s amazing, but if they don’t it’s not the end of the world for me.

How important is it for you to maintain your Michelin star?
If I’m going to be completely honest, I didn’t open the restaurant for a Michelin star.  As a chef, chasing accolades is not my focus or my aim. However, as a business owner of a new restaurant it is important as its helps get the name out to the public.

Rishi Naleendra, chef-owner Cheek by Jowl, Boon Tat Street

  • Rishi Naleendra of Cheek by Jowl
    Sri Lankan-born chef-owner Rishi Naleendra of Cheek by Jowl

As a chef, do you understand where Sebastian Bras is coming from?
Yes I understand where he is coming from as it’s a lot of pressure to maintain three stars. It’s about the consistency, and it can stop you from being creative and adventurous. He is in a position to give them back because no matter what, the restaurant is an institution, whether they have stars or not. Sebastien and his dad (Michel) will always be legendary chefs in the culinary world, and not many chefs in the world are in that (same) position.

Has life changed a lot since you got the star and why?
Yes it has. The exposure we got and the attention not just locally but globally has been amazing and especially being the first Sri Lankan Michelin star chef.

Has it been very stressful for you and your team so far? 
When Manuela (my wife) and I opened this restaurant, our intention was not to get a star. We opened with the intention of offering a dining experience that our guests can’t find anywhere else in Singapore. We also wanted to create a kitchen where chefs didn’t have boundaries or a set of rules where they had to be restricted. I think we are one of the youngest teams in Singapore and we always push ourselves to be better. And getting a star is a very good recognition that we are heading in the right direction.

With or without stars, restaurants are a stressful business and we would do every possible thing to maintain it – without it changing who we are. I still want this place to be where chefs can be creative and give our customers a different experience from anywhere else in Singapore.

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