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更新时间:2017-12-29 15:57:24 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Chef Gives Up a Star, Reflecting Hardship of ‘the Other France’

MONTCEAU-LES-MINES, France — It is like giving up your Nobel, rejecting your Oscar, pushing back on your Pulitzer: Jérôme Brochot, a renowned and refined chef, decided to turn in his Michelin star.

法国蒙索莱米讷——就像放弃诺贝尔奖、拒绝奥斯卡奖、归还普利策奖一样:声名远扬、厨艺高超的大厨热罗姆·布霍肖(Jérôme Brochot)决定,将自己获得的米其林星退回。

He is renouncing the uniquely French distinction that separates his restaurant from thousands of others, the lifetime dream of hundreds. But Brochot’s decision was not a rash one, born of arrogance, ingratitude or spite. Rather, it was for a prosaic, but still important, reason: He could no longer afford it.


It is a drastic step that says everything about the crushing reality of “the other France” — the provinces where on average more than 10 percent of storefronts are vacant, the old jobs have gone, and the cafes are empty on cold mornings.


Even in a region famed for its culinary traditions, this declining old mining town deep in lower Burgundy could not sustain a one-star Michelin restaurant. Brochot, a youthful-looking 46, had gambled on high-end cuisine in a working-class town and lost.


In November, the chef wrote to the Guide Michelin, the fat red gastronome’s bible in Paris that bestows the honor, to say he wanted out. He could no longer make ends meet at his bright orange hotel-restaurant Le France, he said. He could no longer pay for the personnel, produce and precision that go into charging one-star prices.

11月,这位大厨写信给《米其林指南》(Michelin Guide),称他想退出。厚厚的红色《米其林指南》是巴黎美食家的圣经,也是米其林星级餐厅荣誉称号的颁发机构。布霍肖说,他已经无法维持亮橙色的酒店兼餐厅Le France的运转。他没有足够的钱来保证让餐厅可以收取一星餐厅价格的人员、出品和精准度。

“The economic situation here in the ex-mining basin is a disaster,” Brochot wrote to Michelin. “What I’m doing today, I’m not doing lightly, but because I have no other choice.”


Turning in one’s stars isn’t unprecedented, but it is rare. A handful of three-star chefs have done so over the years, crushed by the expense and pressures of maintaining their temples of gastronomy.


The most recent was Sebastien Bras in the central town of Laguiole last fall. But it is highly unusual for a more modest one-star, and particularly poignant in a place that has little else going for it.

距今最近的例子是今年秋天法国中部小镇拉吉约勒的Sebastien Bras。但对一家更低端的一星餐厅来说是极为少见的。在一个几乎没有其他吸引力的地方,这件事尤其令人心酸。

To step out of Brochot’s gleaming kitchen and immaculate, angular dining room is to wonder how he got here in the first place. It seems an extravagance in a faded industrial town whose glory days were 100 years ago, like the reproach perpetually thrown at France itself as a country living beyond its means.


The “for sale” signs on the worn pastel storefronts down Brochot’s street are faded with age. The few people hobbling about in the gloom of a chill December morning are bent over against cold and old age. “There will never be buyers here,” Brochot said outside a shuttered store that was for sale.


A renowned tea salon, its windows clouded over, has been closed for two years. Residents’ faces are long, sad and unwelcoming. A cafe owner muttered a warning against citing its name. Under a leafless tree by the old industrial canal, a mournful 1905 monument pays tribute to the hundreds who died in the local mines over the decades.


Unemployment is 21 percent in Montceau, according to the government’s statistics, more than twice the national average. But the coup de grâce for Brochot was the shuttering of four businesses in quick succession.


“I said, ‘This is going to be complicated for us, with 200 people out on the street,'” the chef recalled.


The population, around 18,000, has been in steady decline for years, and the last coal was pulled out of the earth nearly 20 years ago. Not much has happened since — except for Brochot.


It was 18 years ago that the chef, a local cattle farmer’s grandson who had studied cooking with French greats like Bernard Loiseau, who died in 2003, bet that there was just enough industry in the area to let him exercise his talents close to home.

18年前,这位当地养牛场主的孙子、曾跟2003年去世的贝尔纳·卢瓦索(Bernard Loiseau)等法国大厨学习厨艺的厨师还确信,当地会有足够多的生意,能让他在离家近的地方施展才能。

Six years later, he was awarded his first star by Michelin, “a star in a workingman’s town, what a beautiful symbol,” he wonderingly recalled.


“A starred restaurant at Montceau, workingman’s turf, now that really meant something,” Poli wrote. “One can only regret it.”

“蒙斯奥,工人的领地,有一家星级餐厅,这可是非同一般的,”佛洛朗丝·波利(Florence Poli)写道。“只能说真是可惜。”

The right-leaning mayor, Marie-Claude Jarrot, was furious. “He’s hurting the whole region,” she told the local paper. Jarrot did not respond to a request for an interview.

政治立场偏右的镇长玛丽-克洛德·雅霍(Marie-Claude Jarrot)勃然大怒。“他在损害整个地区,”她对当地的报纸说。雅霍没有回应采访要求。

But for Brochot, hundreds of thousands of euros in debt from a kitchen renovation, it was a question of self-preservation. With a top menu at $130 his goal of 60 diners a day was becoming more and more elusive.


“It’s been catastrophic for the last three years,” said Brochot, a quicksilver whirl of perpetual motion once he is in his chef’s whites.


Brochot’s strategy appears to be working. He has cut his prices and is offering a more down-to-earth cuisine of stews, including the classic blanquette de veau, and serving cod instead of the more expensive sea bass.


It had depressed him deeply, he said, to have to throw away costly bass and turbot, like gold even in France’s street markets, at the end of every sitting because his customers couldn’t afford it. “There was a lot of waste,” he said.


“Since we changed the formula, we’ve gotten a lot more people,” Brochot said. Above all, the effect has been psychological. “In the heads of people, a one-star, it’s the price,” he said.