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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

£15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food