The only Michelin-rated restaurant in the southern city of Nimes has handed back its star to become a humble brasserie, in the hope of enticing back people put off by the higher prices that come with the accolade.
Le Lisita, opposite Nimes' famous Roman arena, clinched its first star from the fabled red restaurant guide in 2006.
But Michelin stars come at a price for chefs, as the guide expects a standard of service requiring more staff, which pushes up the price of a meal even before ingredients are bought.
Chef Olivier Douet said he had initially cherished the coveted accolade but that the 2008 financial economic crisis forced him into a painful rethink.
"I am not spitting in the soup – to have a Michelin star is a distinction, a very important recognition of merit," he said. However, he added that the onerous demands of the gastronomic restaurant barely allowed him to break even.
Such demands are said to have led top chef Bernard Loiseau to commit suicide in 2003 after it was rumoured he was to lose one of his three Michelin stars.
"In a starred restaurant, there is one waiter for five to six people. With a brasserie, a waiter can look after twenty to thirty customers," he told Le Parisien newspaper.
He will now offer a menu with starter and plat du jour for €23.60 (£20.79), which he hopes will allow him to triple the number of clients.
Like other aspiring chefs, Mr Douet had grand plans to expand his Michelin-starred eatery, located in a large property, to a luxury hotel project but "the bankers are scared to lend in a time of crisis to institutions like ours".
The Lisita hopes to capitalise on a French fashion for lively, high quality and affordable brasseries and "gastro bistros", which are doing a roaring trade along with "restauration rapide" – the French take on fast food.
Many Michelin-starred restaurants, meanwhile, are struggling.
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