French chef Roellinger gives up his three Michelin stars

Wed Dec 10, 2008 6:07am EST
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CANCALE, France (Reuters Life!) - French chef Olivier Roellinger is handing back the three Michelin stars awarded to his restaurant Le Relais Gourmand on France's Brittany coast and closing up shop this week, 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 marvelously satisfying. I was 50 years old, and already had physical problems, a leg problem, and I that I wasn't going to be able to continue for very long," he told Reuters Television.

"But I said to myself, I need to hang on for at least three years. I held on for three years, and today, it would not be reasonable for me to continue to cook, to be on my feet in front of my piano, so to speak, for close to eight hours a day."

Roellinger, who closes 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.

Diner Katrine Bienvenu who traveled nearly 400 kms (250 miles) from Paris for her last meal at Relais Gourmand, said the closure was sad but it was not the end.   Continued...

<p>Three Michelin stars rated French chefs Frederic Anton of Pre Catelan (C) and Olivier Roellinger of Maison de Bricourt stand next to the Michelin mascot Bibendum, at a party for the publication of "Michelin Guide Tokyo 2008" in Tokyo November 19, 2007. REUTERS/Kiyoshi Ota</p>