The head chef of a restaurant staffed only by women has handed back a Michelin star and attacked the culture of “expectation” and “competition” around fine dining.
Karen Keyngaert rejected the award and said she prefers the “quieter” atmosphere of the single gender work environment at Cantine Copine (French for “girlfriend cantine”) in Bruges, Belgium.
In an interview explaining the move she derided the macho atmosphere of fine dining where there is “competition” with other eateries, and customers have high expectations.
She told Vice:
If there’s even a crease in the menu card or a crease in the tablecloth, people soon end their sentence with: “I don’t think that belongs to a star restaurant.” Hanging up jackets for the guests, the clothes waiters wear, the white gloves they wear when they put silverware on the table …
And in response to a question about her all-female staff, she said:
There is a notable absence of testosterone. It’s much quieter and there’s less competition. I personally find it enjoyable. I can’t tolerate all the messing around and I can do without all the macho behavior as well.
Keyngaert has held a Michelin star at her current restaurant – called A’Qi – for the past five years, but has decided to move premises, and take three female colleagues with her.
There is no technical procedure for giving Michelin an award back – most chefs want to keep them – but Keyngaert said she got rid of hers in an administrative loophole by not returning the necessary paperwork to have her award renewed.