Kitchen nightmare: Belgian restaurants stripped of Michelin stars

Kitchen nightmare: Belgian restaurants stripped of Michelin stars
Credit: Pietro Jeng / Pexels

Two Belgian celebrity chefs have had Michelin stars stripped from their respective restaurants mere months before both were set to retire, Het Laatste Nieuws (HLN) reports.

Hostellerie Le Fox in De Panne, located on the Belgian coast near the French border, has been downgraded from a two-star to a one-star eatery. Moreover, Eyckerhof restaurant, located roughly halfway between Brussels and Antwerp, has been stripped of its single star, which it had held for thirty years.

Shortly after receiving the news, Stéphane Buyens, the 62-year-old owner of Le Fox, formally announced his own retirement as well as the closure of his restaurant in 2024.

"The fact that I am one star fewer in the Michelin Guide has nothing to do with my decision," he told HLN. "I am almost 63 and have been a Michelin-starred chef for 38 years. You can't underestimate that. Since 2019, I have also been my municipality's local councillor for sports, the local economy, tourism and youth. Next year I will be a candidate again. Combining these functions requires a lot of energy. I don't want to burn out."

Eyckerhof owner Ferdy Debecker, 64, who is also set to retire next year, said that he regretted Michelin's decision but that he was still proud of his achievement. "In 2024, I will retire, and I would have liked to end my career as a Michelin-starred chef," he said. "But c'est la vie. Few colleagues in Belgium can say that they have had a Michelin star for 30 years."

An unjustified decision?

Although they ultimately accepted Michelin's decision, both Buyens and Debecker heavily disputed the suggestion that the quality of the food in their restaurants had declined. Indeed, Buyens went as far as to suggest that Michelin's decision was catalysed by his imminent retirement.

"A while ago I had an extensive conversation with Werner Loens, the editor-in-chief of Michelin," Buyens told the Gazet van Antwerpen. "I told him I would retire. He called me after that, and from the conversation I deduced that we would work with one star fewer for our last year-and-a-half."

Buyens claimed that downgrade was also partly caused by his restaurant's lack of exclusivity and general informal atmosphere.

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"I'm someone who cooks for everyone and they don't like to see that at Michelin, I think," he explained. "We also have a hotel. If a family with children comes here and their kids prefer a good sole with homemade fries and ketchup instead of the menu, then they get that from me."

He added: "Recently there was a nice company here, two of those people wanted steak au poivre. Well, I made that for them too. In a top manner, of course, but possibly something like that does not fit into the image of the two stars. But I am who I am. I remain true to my vision and that is that as a cook I am a marchand de bonheur: making people happy with top quality food."

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