The Mystery of Henry Pascal

Henry Pascal with Chef Paul Bocuse

Perhaps you missed this London Times story that has all the makings of an Agatha Christie?

Swiss motorcycle courier, Henry Pascal (age 46) spent years saving and planning for his dream trip – to eat at all 68 three-star Michelin-rated restaurants in the world.

He’d made it through 39 restaurants in. He’d just finished a 32-course, $300 meal at the 40th restaurant on his list.  It was midnight at El Bulli, on the Costa Brava, acclaimed as the finest restaurant on earth.  He was conversing with a couple at the next table. The trio decided to exchange business cards, but Henry realized he didn’t have any with him and so excused himself to get one from his car.

No one has seen him since.

Left behind on the table were his hat, some photos and Henry’s notebook where he’d been recording the dishes he’d eaten and the experiences of his gastronomic adventure.

No evidence of foul play, accident or suicide has been found.

There are reports in El Periodico that a week after he disappeared, Henry confirmed a reservation at a French restaurant, but did not keep it. Also, apparently someone cancelled Henry’s reservations at the eight Japanese restaurants on his list.

French Chef Paul Bocuse, elected in Europe as “Chef of the Century”, met Henry on the first leg of his journey and took him under his wing.  He presented him with the notebook left behind at El Bulli and then sent a fax to the other 67 restaurants on Henry’s list asking the chefs to treat Henry with particular attention when he came to visit.

Chef Bocuse’s theorized that Henry “went up in a puff of smoke, after all, El Bulli is the gastronomic temple of smoke and mirror shows”. (Said, no doubt, with a haughty Gallic sneer).

I’m thinking that as nice as a gourmet tour like this sounds, it’s unimaginable to me to eat a meal like this every day for over two months. It must get exhausting for your taste buds, for your brain and for all your other organs that need to process this epicurean extravaganza every 24 hours.

He probably just exploded.

Or it’s a plot he cooked up with the French chef to discredit the Spanish chef (and his best restaurant on earth)

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Henry Pascal contact INTERPOL ((33) 4 72 44 71 63)  or leave a message on this blog.


15 responses to “The Mystery of Henry Pascal

  1. Yeah, maybe the food wasn’t that great and he spontaneously combusted.

    I also agree with you, XUP, about eating that great food so often — sort of the haute cuisine version of Supersize Me. Ya just gotta have KD and wieners once in a while.

    Yes, I am definitely a bourgeois meat and potatoes kinda guy.

  2. This reminds me of the fable about the beloved king who was depressed and lost his appetite.

    All the great chefs of the land were invited to try to coax him back into eating by preparing irresistible gastronomical delights for him.

    If they succeeded, they would win the princess’ hand in marriage. If they failed, well, they had to take the medieval equivalent of a Greyhound bus to Portage la Prairie.

    Famous chefs from miles away came and cooked for the king. The king just shook his head sadly at all their offerings, and heads rolled like dust bunnies throughout the castle.

    Then one day a simple shepherd who had long had a crush on the princess came to the castle and said he would like to feed the king and marry the princess.

    Naturally everybody scoffed and said he was just a shepherd, what could he possibly know about fine cuisine, and perhaps they should behead him for his insolence alone.

    But the king, being a kind soul, waved away the naysayers and said he was willing to give the shepherd a chance.

    The shepherd was delighted. He told the king to come with him. The king expected to be led to the grand dining room, but no, the shepherd took him outside. Together with the flock of sheep, they wandered through the pastures and meadows and hills, until the sun rose high in the sky and the king was quite exhausted.

    Then they sat beneath a tree and the shepherd took a small package from his bag and carefully unwrapped two cheese sandwiches. He handed one to the king, along with a cup of cold water from the nearby stream.

    The king, much to his surprise, was famished. The sandwich looked delicious. He gobbled it down and asked for more, but the shepherd said no, that was all there was. Together they returned to the castle where the king proclaimed that she shepherd had cured him and would marry his beloved daughter. Which he did.

    And the moral of the story is that simple foods are sometimes exactly what you need, especially if you’re eating too much complicated cuisine, and a little fresh air and exercise will do wonders for your appetite and mood.

    (I think they should look for the missing Man Who Tried to Eat his Way Around the World in the nearest sheep pasture.)

    (And I apologize for the length of this comment. I blame it on the combination of wine and Robaxicet.)

  3. 32 course meal???!!! I honestly hope that nothing tragic has happened to this gentleman, but it’s quite possible he realized his complete folly in this mission, and crawled away…and he had to have crawled…to quietly go about his business…and eat nothing but salad for the next several months.

    32 course meal???!!! Does one leaf of lettuce count as one course, and the next leaf the next course?

  4. Bob – Apparantly the guy was really into haute cuisine, was a great cook himself, read all the magazines and books, knew all about all the chefs, the restaurants, their menus, etc., etc. A lifetime hobby culminating in this adventure of a lifetime — probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Zoom – Thanks for the nice story. And you’re quite right, it’s very apt. You should get some sleep now.

    UP – They say the meal took 3 hours to consume. There are probably a lot of palate cleansers in between that count as courses. Maybe you and the Lion should go check it out and not invite me!

  5. That high-falutin’ Frenchy-type food comes in such tiny portions, that a walnut probably counts as one course.

  6. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what makes up a 32-course meal and how anyone can eat that much food in one sitting. I’m with you – I think he spontaneously combusted.


  7. He had an expensive hobby and my guess is he also wanted to be famous. He had a taste of fame when the one chef befriended him and wanted more. People often “disappear” so they can read about themselves in the paper. It’s some extreme form of narcissm. Or he’s dead. Probably eaten by dust mites.

  8. UP – Yes, slap on the wrist.

    BANDOBRAS – Monty Python, you think? It’s something for the fiction pages that’s for sure. I was thinking more Agatha Christie with all the last century opulence, over-the-top characters, mysteries without clues.

    BOB – You really are so bourgeois with your heaping plates of potatoes and animal hindquarters.

    KIMBERLEY – Here’s a list of a typical tasting menu meal (each item is a “course”) that can take up to 6 hours to eat and comes with 5 different wines:

    Cucumber gin tonic* with candied citrus peel, prepared tableside with a jug of liquid nitrogen
    Esferificación olives* (olive oil trapped in a soft casing to look like an olive)
    Olive oil spiral*, which you loop around your index finger and drop in your mouth, where it dissolves into thin filaments
    Mango leaf with tagete flower (a type of marigold)
    “Animals”: seaweed-flavored rice crackers with a fragile, moussy texture that reminded me of Monster Munches
    Hibiscus, blackcurrant, and eucalyptus candy with a paper-thin sugar “cape”*
    Sea lettuce and white sesame waffles
    Freeze-dried banana crunches flavored with sesame and nutmeg*
    Walnut polvorones (“polvorones” are traditional Spanish cookies — these were savory, and had a buttery texture that turned to dust in your mouth)
    Mandarine essence: a silky soup of mandarin with a hint of mango
    Caramel filled with squash seed oil*
    Popcorn cloud*
    Melon and passionfruit caviar
    Pine nut tart in a meringue shell
    Thai brioche filled with a lemongrass and basil ice-cream
    Crab fritter topped with an anemone*
    Liquid ham croquette topped with breadcrumbs*
    Parmesan wontons in a chicken broth, plopped into a bowl of basil foam
    Parmesan “air” (more like snow, really) in a styrofoam box, on which you sprinkled a freeze-dried berry muesli (this was our least favorite dish: there was too much of the Parmesan air, the texture wasn’t particularly enjoyable, and the muesli seemed completely out of place)
    A fillet of anchovy, surrounded with dots of variously and intensely flavored sauces and grape-like bubbles, and a crisp cardamom brioche on the side
    Tomato soup with virtual ham* — thin slivers of tomato-flavored jelly, and croutons topped with ham-flavored jelly and basil seeds
    Mussel spheres in a potato and bacon soup, with dots of double cream, and cubes of apple jelly
    Bread soup with egg yolk spheres and laurencia seaweed
    “The seeds”: tiny lumps and piles of various vegetable and herb seeds
    Curry-flavored zucchini seed risotto with capsules of peanut oil*
    Ackees (a Jamaican fruit) and cucumber hearts in a veal and basil broth
    “The sea”: a discovery trail of twelve different types of seaweed, some mild, some extremely bold in flavor
    Crab Marrakech: lumps of crab meat in a mandarin flower broth, with bulgur on the side
    Boneless chicken feet wrapped in sea lettuce with sesame sauce and froth*
    Creamy sheep’s milk cheese topped with a sheep’s milk cheese “wool”, with a wedge of raspberry jelly on the side
    Liquid peach: a frozen casing of peach liqueur, and a spoonful of thin peach purée
    Raspberry sorbet, verbena mousse, and chocolate* (notice how the plating makes it look like a snail)
    Peach soup
    Mango sorbet sandwiches
    Chocolate bites filled with mandarin sorbet*

    GEEWITS – Your mind works in interesting ways.

  9. That is just bizarre.

    As for Geewit’s comment. She had me laughing out loud with that one. I love how her mind works!

  10. OMG ! I’ve never heard of this story before. You can be damn sure I’ll research it further. While it’s true that Ferran Adria, the chef at El Bulli, is a firm believer in molecular haute cusine and that Paul Bocuse frowns upon it, could it actually lead to murder? You never know! L’Empire Bocuse is big and powerful! And, I’ve seen Ratatouille and how evil Chefs can get!

  11. Jazz – Ya, she really puts the “wit” in Geewits.

    UL – I’m not as familiar with the inner Michelin chefs circle, but if you find out anything more, please let me know. I think it’s a really cool story.

  12. He was kidnapped by Ronald McDonald and Mayor McCheese. He’s not being held for ransom. They just want him to friggin’ stop it.