The Michelin Man turns up - but a tasty riddle remains

John Lichfield,Elizabeth Nash
Sunday 23 October 2011 05:59

The mystery of the missing Michelin Man appears to have been solved – or partially solved.

The world was searching for Pascal Henry but Pascal Henry was at home in Geneva, hiding from the world.

M. Henry, 46, vanished almost two months ago during a heroic attempt to eat at all 68 Michelin three-starred restaurants in the world in 68 days.

The self-employed scooter courier visited 40 restaurants in eight countries before he abruptly disappeared, without paying his bill, from the celebrated El Bulli restaurant near Barcelona in the early hours of 13 June. Interpol started a missing person's investigation last month. The Spanish police belatedly launched a man-hunt this week using helicopters and tracker dogs to search the sea cliffs near El Bulli at Rosas on the Costa Brava.

On Thursday night, Interpol informed Madrid that M. Henry had been photographed by a security camera earlier this week withdrawing money from his own bank account in Geneva. The Spanish police announced yesterday that they were putting their investigation "on hold".

M. Henry may have failed, for reasons still unknown, to tour the gastronomic world in 68 days but the story of his disappearance circled the globe. Accounts have appeared in newspapers, or on television, in New Zealand, Uruguay. Argentine, the United States, Romania, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Britain, Ireland, France, Spain and, of course, Switzerland.

His uncle, and only living relative, made an attempt this week to calm the world's fears. The uncle, who asked to remain anonymous, said he had not seen his nephew but dropped heavy hints that he knew that he was safe and well. He told the Tribune de Genève newspaper: "As far as I am concerned he is back in Geneva and he can't be anywhere else. With all this media hue and cry, he must be feeling a little sick. He's trying to lie as low as possible and hope that everyone forgets all about him."

The reasons for M. Henry's decision to break off his gastronomic marathon remain a mystery. He abruptly left his table at El Bulli - often named as the best restaurant in the world – just after midnight on 13 June.

He left behind his hat, a folder of photographs and a diary of his tour, signed by some of the greatest chefs in the world. He did not show up for his remaining 28 reservations, in Spain, Britain, the United States, Japan and Paris.

A Spanish journalist revealed this week that she had spoken to M. Henry at El Bulli - just before he disappeared. Cristina Jolonch of Vanguardia said that the Swiss gastronome seemed happy and enthusiastic about his tour.

She wrote: "He promised to grant me an interview when his journey was finished, and looked for a visiting card to give me, only to discover he didn't have his wallet, and said he would pop out for a moment. A waiter told him not to worry, he could come back the next day. But Henry left anyway, saying he´d be right back..."

Was the Swiss foodie simply doing a runner? This appears unlikely. He had paid, without trouble, in all the 39 previous high-class restaurants that he had visited in France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Monaco and Spain. He had saved for the trip for two years, raising around €30,000.

In the course of his tour, in late May, Pascal Henry was interviewed by telephone by Jacques Perrin, a Swiss blogger who runs a gastronomic web-site called "Mille Plateaux". M. Henry said: "We all want to do something beyond our everyday experience. I am not doing it to get into a book of records. I have always been passionate about food and wine and I just wanted to leave my working life behind me for a few months."

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments