Top French chef heads to Asia without telling customers

Do chefs have a responsibility to their clients?

Without warning prepaid customers, Michelin-star chef Thierry Drapeau has suddenly but sheepishly pulled up stakes in western France and left for Asia to start new restaurants.

A woman hoping to celebrate her 50th birthday recalled considering dining at McDonald's after she and her husband drove 45 minutes in their best clothes only to find the restaurant closed.

The woman told AFP they had paid to reserve the occasion well in advance.

But Drapeau had closed his Logis de La Chabotterie restaurant in Saint-Sulpice-le-Verdon and his four-star hotel of the same name on March 2.

Staff were told of the closure just a few days before it took effect, a source close to the matter said.

The chef, who lost his second Michelin Guide star last year, wrote on Facebook he had decided to "live beside his wife Kim in her country, Vietnam, which had adopted him already, in order to see their son (Tan) grow up."

He announced he would "very soon" open his signature restaurant Thierry Drapeau in Bangkok, "as a new dream that begins," and also "Le Cheval Blanc by Thierry Drapeau in Cambodia.

"For all those who feel wounded and betrayed by this sudden departure...thinking about them made my decision so much harder," the chef claimed.

He did not say whether he would reimburse customers however, and AFP was unable to reach him for comment.

Sandrine, who gave only her first name, told AFP of her shock after having paid months in advance to celebrate her 50th birthday at the now one-star restaurant.

"Dressed up, we drove three-quarters of an hour with my husband to find ourselves before a closed restaurant door, without any explanation," she said.

"However, we had received a confirmation message the night before," she added.

"After having wandered around with other customers, a resident explained to us that he had left without warning," Sandrine said.

"It's a birthday ruined. We ended up going elsewhere. We even though of going to McDo."

Drapeau also failed to notify regional authorities who rented him the building under a lease that expires at the end of May, according to the source close to the case.

Drapeau's restaurant had been operating under a restructuring plan in line with a September 2016 court ruling.