Why Michelin chefs are returning their stars

(CNN) — Being awarded a Michelin star was once the ultimate culinary accolade — a reward for the punishing hours and dedication to detail that helped usher chefs into the upper echelons of their industry and bring big-spending diners into their restaurants.

But for some in the culinary world, those stars have begun to seem more of a burden than a blessing. In the past few years, several chefs have handed back their Michelin status, closed the doors on their upscale eateries and begun a new foodie life away from the confines of haute cuisine.

The stars have begun to lose their luster.

And among chef graduates, there’s a thirst for new gourmand adventures — in 2020, supper clubs and street food trucks are as favored as the hallowed halls of established restaurants.

Star surrender

Michelin, in case you’d forgotten, is actually a tire company. The Michelin Guide launched at the beginning of the 20th century as a directory for French motorists, detailing hotels, petrol stations and other stopoff points. Stars were awarded to fine dining restaurants from 1926 onwards.

A century later and the guide’s got an indisputable power: gaining — and, by default, losing — a star has the ability to shape a restaurant’s future.

In 1994, a 32-year-old Marco Pierre White became the youngest chef to achieve three stars at his eponymous restaurant.

By 1999, he’d renounced the stars, quitting the restaurant that had made him a culinary star.

Pierre White kickstarted a trend that’s slowly gathered…

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