The last supper: mystery of the Swiss motorbike courier

Five countries, 40 gourmet restaurants, 120 Michelin stars – but what happened to the Swiss motorcycle courier after his meal at El Bulli?

Here is a mystery which would have whetted the appetite of Sherlock Holmes or, better still, Hercule Poirot, a man who truly appreciated haute cuisine.

Pascal Henry, 46, a Swiss motorbike courier, set out in May to eat in every Michelin three-starred restaurant in the world – 68 restaurants in nine countries in 68 days. He had reached restaurant number 40: El Bulli on the Costa Brava, acclaimed as the finest restaurant on earth, when, after his dessert, but before paying his bill, he vanished.

On his table he left his hat, some photographs and a notebook signed by some of the finest chefs in the world listing all the dishes that he had eaten so far.

That was just after midnight on 13 June. Since then nothing has been heard of him. His bookings in the remaining 28 restaurants have not been taken up. He was due to return to work this week. He has not appeared.

A missing persons search has been launched by Interpol at his uncle's request. One of the world's most celebrated chefs, Paul Bocuse, whose restaurant near Lyon was the first stop in Mr Henry's gastronomic marathon, has issued a personal appeal for information on his whereabouts.

"He couldn't just have vanished into thin air leaving his notebook," said M. Bocuse.

On 12 June, Mr Henry turned up on schedule for his meal at El Bulli. The restaurant claims to receive a million reservation requests each year. The average price of a meal is €230 (£180).

The Swiss foodie had completed his meal just after midnight when he struck up a conversation with a couple at the next table. According to the Catalan police, he reached into his jacket pocket to give them a visiting card and discovered that his wallet was missing. He asked for permission to go to his car to look for the wallet and never returned.

The police were alerted five hours later. They could find no trace of Mr Henry.

The tall, young-looking, bespectacled 46-year-old has a history of unexplained disappearances. While touring the United States as a young man, he vanished for several months. His estranged wife told the Swiss press that he was a secretive man. His uncle points out, however, that it is unlikely that he would have lightly abandoned a tour which had taken years of saving and months of planning.

Had Pascal Henry run out of money? Was his wallet stolen? Was he too embarrassed to go back to explain? Was he attacked? Did he fall from one of the nearby sea cliffs? "That would have been impossible," El Bulli's manager, Juli Soler, told the Tribune de Genève. "The restaurant terrace was packed. Someone would have seen or heard." Mr Henry began his tour on 5 May. He explained his plans to M. Bocuse, one of the great French chefs, who gave him a notebook and wrote down the menu that he had just eaten. He suggested that Mr Henry should ask each chef in each restaurant to do the same thing. M. Bocuse even promised to phone ahead and ask them to cooperate.

Mr Henry drove his car to other restaurants in France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. After his visit to Spain, he was due to fly to the United States and Japan before completing his tour at the Plaza Athénée in Paris, one of three three-star restaurants run by the French jet-set chef Alain Ducasse.

M. Bocuse, who was photographed with Mr Henry on the first night of his tour, said he was touched by his devotion to haute cuisine: "I wanted him to be welcomed warmly everywhere..."

He even telephoned El Bulli to ask them to help. "They seemed a bit irritated by the whole affair," he said. "They can't see that it has anything to do with them."

Gourmet dining

The world of Michelin's three-star dining is a place of elegance, exoticism and expense:

* The first Michelin guide, published in 1900 by André Michelin, showed drivers where to stay, where to service their car and – most importantly – where to eat.

* Michelin's first version was given away free and only covered France. Nowadays, the guides are seen as the ultimate authority on the finest dining worldwide. Michelin says it sells a million copies a year.

* A one-star establishment is seen as "a very good restaurant in its category"; two stars means "worth a detour"; and the sacred third star signifies "exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey".

* In 2007, Tokyo became the most starred city when Michelin distributed 191 stars among 150 restaurants – eight of them securing the maximum three. Paris has 98 stars in total, and London only 50.

* Three-star restaurants are not to everyone's taste. "There is an elaboration of food that you get in three star restaurants that – although it may be a magnificent mind-expanding experience – is rarely a comfortable one," says the food writer Charles Campion.

Toby Green

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map