Why Did This Female Chef Reject Her Michelin Star?

The only woman to ever receive a Michelin star in Flanders, Belgium, has returned it to start a new restaurant with an all-femal

Karen Keygnaert wants to see a more gender-inclusive culinary community.

Receiving a Michelin star may be one of the highest culinary honors a chef can receive. However, rejecting a Michelin star is not as uncommon as you might think. Julio Biosca of the famed Casa Julio in Spain gave up his star after seeing it as “too burdensome.” Now joining the small but attention-grabbing group of chefs to return their stars is Karen Keygnaert, the only female chef in Flanders, Belgium, to have earned a Michelin star.

Keygnaert’s restaurant, A’Qi, received a Michelin star five years ago, two years after it opened. Now she is giving her star back in order to start fresh, untainted — with an all-female staff.  The new concept, Cantine Copine, “won’t qualify for a star” on purpose.

“Until ten years ago, a Michelin star was a blessing, but in these economic times it is more of a curse,” Keygnaert told Munchies. “Guests will come with a different expectation. They expect certain products, such as lobster or lamb, but as purchase prices rise they find it difficult to accept that the prices of the menus are going up as well.”

Keygnaert wanted to “stop with all the frills”; there was too much pressure on a Michelin-starred restaurant to maintain a perfect façade. “I want a restaurant where I would like to go out to eat myself,” Keygnaert said, “so I attract the kind of people I seem to feel comfortable with.” 

Keygnaert currently employs an all-female team, all of whom she plans to bring to the new venture. “It’s much quieter and there’s less competition,” she said of working without men. “I can’t tolerate all the messing around and I can do without all the macho behavior as well.”


A’Qi will move across town and reopen as Cantine Copine in spring 2017, according to the new restaurant’s website