French Restaurant Gives Back Michelin Star, Citing High Cost Of Quality Maintenance

In France, Michelin is king. Ambitious chefs slave away as stagieres in three-star kitchens for years in the hopes of learning what it takes to gain stars themselves. Careers and reputations rise and fall with rankings in "Le Guide Rouge." So most people take it for granted that this prestige is good for business. But Le Lisita restaurant, which sits across the street from the famed Nimes coliseum in southern France, thinks otherwise. Since it won its first Michelin star in 2006, the restaurant's owners have felt increasing pressure to maintain high quality. This involves hiring many more waiters and cooks than they otherwise would. With the economy still soft, they say that the cost of this quality maintenance has become too high—so they've decided to give back their Michelin star. They're reconceiving Le Lisita as a more informal "brasserie," which they're calling "Tendances Lisita Restaurant," which Google awkwardly translates as "Restaurant Trends Lisita."

Le Lisita's decision is not without precedent. In de'n Dillegaard restaurant in Maastricht, Holland gave up its star in 2009, citing economic reasons much like those at Le Lisita. And Saint-Victoire restaurant in Beaureceuil gave up its star in 2005, shortly after French chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide over the stress of running a Michelin three-star restaurant. Saint-Victoire's chef said that keeping up with the culinary demands of stardom had kept him from enjoying other parts of his life.