In 2003, French chef Bernard Loiseau killed himself when Michelin warned him that he was in danger of losing one of the stars in his three star rating. In 2016, Benoît Violier, the French-born chef of Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville, killed himself as well.
What do the tragedies of these chefs have to do with me? And what could they possibly have to do with Yom Kippur?
Let me explain.
I read an article this morning that chef Sébastien Bras of the restaurant Le Suquet in southern France’s rural Aubrac region has declared that Michelin should take their star and shove it. He has actually announced that he wants to be left out of the 2018 edition of the Michelin guide. His restaurant currently holds a three-star rating and has had the rating for over a decade, so what in the world could the guy be doing?
As soon as I started to read the article, I knew what he was doing.
He’s jumping off of the rat race. He’s clearly an incredibly talented chef. He’s proven himself time and time again. He doesn’t need new customers, undoubtedly, and he doesn’t need more fame. What he needs, instead, is the peace and quiet to hone his skill; the time to enjoy the work he does; and the space to work without pressure.
Announcing his request with a Facebook video, he said,
“I have decided, in agreement with all my family, to begin a new chapter of my professional life without the award of the Michelin Guide, but with so much passion for cooking. I will continue to practice the profession that I love, continue to share the taste of Aubrac, our territory, the source of inspiration and creativity.“
Now some might say “big deal.” The guy is already clearly very established and he has as many customers as he could want. It’s easy for him to walk away.
But I think it is a big deal. Yes, he’s already established; yes, his reputation has clearly been proven; but too many people simply can’t walk away from the chance to continue to impress; and I think ever more so, they can’t walk away from the quest for accolades. We all want to be validated for the great things that we do.
And that brings us back to Violier and Loiseau who killed themselves over similar pressures. Many people close to Violier were shocked that he took his life, but they speculated that the pressure to retain his three stars caused his actions. For Loiseau, his death was a direct result of being told that his stars were in jeopardy.
I found chef Bras’ actions completely refreshing. But what does this obviously non-kosher chef have to do with Yom Kippur and with my life? As we conclude Yom Kippur we are given a clean slate; we get the chance to set goals for the year ahead and to plan how we hope to achieve those goals. But as we set those goals, it’s important to remember what they are for, and what they aren’t for. It’s far more important for us to believe in ourselves than to look to others to believe in us. And it’s important, although certainly not easy, to shake off outside influences and to find our satisfaction within ourselves.
Sébastien Bras has declared that he plans to do just that.
Way to go, Sébastien.
May we all find ways to throw off the shackles of the pressures that bind and to liberate ourselves to be our best selves this year.