Chef Henrique Leis, owner and chef de cuisine of Restaurant Henrique Leis in Almancil, has given up the Michelin star he has held since 2009. The Brazilian chef, born in Maranhão, Brazil, but who has lived in Portugal for 25 years, sent a letter to the Madrid delegation of Michelin Guide asking “the Michelin Guide team for permission to supply Michelin Star from 2020”. The letter was sent on 12 June and in it, says Henrique Leis, it is “with great honour and prestige that my team and I have been part of this guide for 19 years, but we want to offer the same service, but without the pressure of receiving the star”.
The case of Henrique Leis is not new worldwide, other bosses have already waived the distinction, but this is the first time it has happened in Portugal. There are six restaurants in Portugal with two Michelin stars and 20 with one star. The new list will be published during the month of November. At Boa Cama Boa Mesa, Henrique Leis said that the guide’s team would consider “my request”, but he does not expect to know the final answer.
Henrique Leis also said that he took this action because “she is 19 years old and I want to have more freedom and less stress. It is 19 years old, it is a lot…. It was very good all those years with the star, but the moment comes when you have to think…. I want to cook with more freedom without having to wait for the stamp of a Michelin inspector”. The decision had already been made. It occurred to him when he said: “I was ten years old like a star. I thought about when I was 15 and wanted to be 20”, but he thought that “19 and 20 are the same thing, it’s one year less suffering, less stress”. He also assumes that “I’m sure if I hadn’t asked to resign, I would have continued with the star this year”.
In the near future, says Henrique Leis, he will “continue to do the same, it won’t change anything, because I don’t know how to do it differently. I will continue with the same thing, the same products, the same team, everything the same. I just want to put an end to this stress. Cooking for taste and also for the need to keep the business”. The decision was “an old wish of mine, it was a decision that just needed to be better reflected, to talk to my daughters, because they also help me, and consider whether or not it is worth it. At the age of 19 I am already a little saturated by this pressure, my daughters don’t want it either, they prefer to do other things with more freedom and I will help them as long as I can”.
The boss, who is now giving up his Michelin star, also tells Boa Cama Boa Mesa: “I never wanted, nor did I ever have the dream, to win a second star. One is already a burden that you have and the costs that you have, the expenses With two it is almost impossible! I don’t have a hotel, if it was a hotel with a lot of money, it would be one thing and it doesn’t depend on the sale of food, it depends on other things, other promotions, rooms. And usually it’s people with a lot of money and a lot of business. I don’t have it, I only have this one.
In March this year, when the Boa Cama Boa Mesa visited the Henrique Leis restaurant, we could see the fruits of an intervention in space. Updated and sleek decoration, more natural light and view on the first floor, area where there is even an outdoor terrace surrounded by flowers. The room on the ground floor also has lighter and brighter tones, while maintaining the intimacy and the chef’s paintings. The efforts made to improve the ambience have been evident, as has the friendliness and professionalism of the service. The dishes are reminiscent of canvas: there are the explosions of colour, the play of textures, the freedom, the sensitive boldness of the artist. And, as we have been told, “a lot of research by the chef to keep up with new trends” in gastronomy. Scallops, truffle ravioli and hedgehog emulsion and organic eggs à la Coque with imperial smoked caviar bring the worlds closer together and show understanding for new techniques and requirements for product selection (quality, then, organic…). On the menu was also the desired lobster from the Algarve coast with coconut gel and cappuccino tuille, Barbarie’s new duck, chocolate extravaganzas, a selection of homemade ice creams and sorbets, cheese and suggestions for dessert wines.
In recent years, several chefs have said no to joining or staying in the Michelin Guide. Marco Pierre White, returned the three stars he had and in 2018 he refused to allow the inspectors to visit the Asian restaurant The English House. In 2017, it was Sebastien Bras, a Gallic chef, who was tired of the pressure of the three stars at the restaurant Le Suquet and gave up the award. Karen Keygnaert, Belgium’s only woman with a Michelin star at Restaurant A’Qi, refused the 2016 award, as did Jo Bussels and Frederick Dhooge of Restaurant Huis van Lede, and Jérôme Brochot of Restaurant Le France. In Scotland, the Boath House Restaurant returned the Michelin star in 2017, which it had held for ten years.