Health & Spirit

Who Knew? Letting Go of a Star Can Be Heavenly

Marilynn Preston on

We can all learn something delicious about personal well-being from the true story of Sebastién Bras. Bras is a celebrated chef in France, a man who isn't afraid to stir the pot of what makes him happy and create a new recipe for success.

Le Suquet, his restaurant in southern France (a pilgrimage spot for foodies the world over), is one of the few to ever earn a three-star rating in the esteemed Michelin Guide. It happened back in 1999, thanks to his father, chef Michel Bras, "who helped raise vegetables to an art form," The New York Times recently reported.

Michel's signature dish? A spectacular assemblage of 60 different vegetables, seeds and flowers. (And you thought a pasta primavera took time!)

In case you're not au courant with the Michelin Guide, a three-star rating is as good as it gets in the world of French cooking. It's the Mount Everest of culinary climbing, la creme de la triple creme, and when it was granted to Le Suquet, the Bras family was ecstatic.

That was then. This is now. The Times reports that Michel's son, who took over the restaurant 10 years ago, wants to let go of this coveted three-star rating. Too much pressure, too much stress. He's asked the publishers of the Michelin Guide to remove him entirely from next year's guide. Sacré bleu!

"My father fought hard for that famous third star," he told the Times. "But now I want to be liberated from the pressure."

Liberated from the pressure of being perfect: Does that sound dreamy or what? Bras, 46, is more interested in his serenity, he says, and his serenity was undermined by the huge pressure he felt knowing that at any moment a Michelin inspector could show up unannounced to make sure the restaurant was doing everything perfectly to maintain its three-star status.

"Food should be about love -- not about competition," Bras now believes. Giving up the coveted third star not only reduced his stress, he said, but also gave "a new meaning to my life."

Bras is happy now that he took a strong action to liberate himself, and the frosting on the cake is that his father's happy, too.

The takeaway from the story? It's never too late, or too early, to let go of perfectionism. Or the endless work and worry that's involved when you value perfectionism above all, and ignore other pursuits, such as serenity, happiness and time spent with family and friends or paddling a quiet lake.

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people," Anne Lamott writes in her classic book, "Bird by Bird."

It's that inner voice we all hear from time to time, telling us we have to climb higher, work harder, work longer -- or else! Or else what? Or else you might lose that third Michelin star!

ACCEPTANCE. Whoever said that perfect is the enemy of good captured something perfectly true: Personal well-being doesn't depend on being perfect. Or being the best. It wants you to like yourself just for being very good. Or for making your best effort.

Accepting yourself -- imperfections and all -- is a kick-starter to changing your behavior, moving toward a healthier lifestyle. Bras knew he would be happier and his well-being would improve without the stress and pressure of that third Michelin star. And he acted on it. And that's what liberation feels like.

PERSONAL WELL-BEING POP-QUIZ. Question 1: Is it time for you to let go of something that you've worked hard to achieve and maintain but that no longer serves you? Priorities change. As the years fly by, so might your interest in working 70-hour workweeks. Top French chefs must be extreme workaholics, says Yves Bontoux, a consultant to six French Michelin-starred restaurants, because that's what's required, that's the challenge. "Three stars mean that everything must be perfect, at any time, in every plate," he explains in The New York Times piece on Bras. "You have to be working in your restaurant from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day, nonstop."

Question 2: Do you feel the pressure and stress of working too long and enjoying your life too little?

Question 3: Is there something you can do to enhance your well-being and restore balance to your life?

Question 4: What are you waiting for?

Bon appetit!


"Nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should." -- Julia Child


Marilynn Preston is the author of Energy Express, America's longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her new book "All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being" is available now on Amazon and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Social Connections


Gary Markstein Dilbert Non Sequitur Dog Eat Doug Hagar the Horrible Cathy