French chef Gilles Tournadre announced on France Bleu Normandie that he will return his restaurant Gill's two Michelin stars at the end of the year, citing the coronavirus pandemic lockdown as the deciding factor. "With my wife, we saw that we could live a bit like everyone else. We rediscovered ourselves and our home," he says.
The chef from Rouen in Normandy will not be throwing in the towel on the industry altogether, but will instead open a small, chic restaurant serving snacks befitting his new philosophy of less stressful cooking. "I think that in our profession, many chefs want to go back to this," he said.
Alexandre Bourdas, another French chef from Normandy, also took the decision last month to return his two stars for his SaQuaNa restaurant in Honfleur, to focus on a more accessible and casual style of cooking.
Speaking to Le Parisien newspaper, the chef said: "The world is changing. We are already beginning to question the need to take planes, etc. I want to be in tune with what I do, to offer the cuisine I love, the one I cook for my friends, on affordable terms for all. Besides, I didn't want to venture into uncertain economic prospects. We've been lucky enough to get through this crisis without any problems, but we don't know what the months and years will be".
Nationwide lockdowns have given many professionals the opportunity to reflect, recompose and re-connect with their core values. Perhaps this has been most evident in the restaurant industry, where many chefs and restaurateurs have had to throw away their original business models and get creative in order to survive.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic gripped the restaurant industry, there had been some high-profile cases of French chefs handing back their Michelin stars, including Sebastian Bras and Marc Veryat.
Whether this move away from Michelin will become a growing trend in the 'new normal' is yet to be seen, but what is clear is that there are already signs of many 'fine dining' and Michelin-starred restaurants around the world embracing a more casual approach to dining as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.