German restaurant dropped by Michelin guide after chef says Chinese not welcome

Justin Huggler
People enjoy the afternoon sun at the river Rhine in the old town of Duesseldorf, Germany, despite the social distancing order to fight the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, April 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) -  Martin Meissner/ AP

One of Germany’s best-known restaurants has been stripped of its coveted Michelin star after its celebrity chef owner said Chinese people were not welcome because of the coronavirus crisis.

Im Schiffchen restaurant in Düsseldorf reopened last week as Germany lifted its lockdown.

But the famous establishment was plunged into controversy over a social media post by Jean-Claude Bourgueil, the chef and owner, to announce the reopening.

“We start again on Friday,” Mr Bourgueil wrote on his personal Facebook page. “Chinese people are not welcome!!!!”

Mr Bourgueil was widely accused of racism and the post was publicly condemned by the mayor of Düsseldorf.

A lot of people enjoy the evening sun in the old town of Duesseldorf, Germany, despite the social distancing order to fight the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, April 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) - Martin Meissner/AP

Im Schiffchen has been removed from Michelin’s website, and visitors are redirected to a message that the restaurant’s page no longer exists.

“I wouldn’t do it again,” Mr Bourgueil told Germany’s DPA press agency. “I ballsed up.”

The 73-year-old said he had intended the post as a criticism of the “dictatorial government and power of China”, but that he accepted it was a “thoughtless statement” that had been “formulated completely wrong”. 

“I am a child of the French revolution and detest all dictators in this world. Dictators who oppress their citizens and punish people with death,” Mr Bourgueil, who is French, said.

“People of nine different nationalities work at our restaurant. My wife is Asian and I myself am a foreigner in this land. Rest assured, I can be accused of many things, but certainly not racism, and I do not tolerate it.”

He said he accepted Michelin’s decision to drop Im Schiffchen from its guide, but added: “I hope they take me back soon”.

“We will not accept racial discrimination against Asian Düsseldorfers because of the coronavirus pandemic,” Thomas Geisel, the mayor, said in a statement. “The virus is not a Chinese phenomenon.”