Swiss gourmand's vanishing act baffles Spanish police

5th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

Pascal Henry disappeared in Spain almost two months ago.

Madrid -- On June 12, Swiss gourmet Pascal Henry was chatting to a fellow guest after finishing his meal at El Bulli, the north- eastern Spanish restaurant regarded as one of the best in the world.

Apparently discovering he had left his visiting cards in his car, the unaccompanied man dressed in black told a waiter he needed to pop out to pick them up.

"I'll be right back," Henry said -- and was never heard of again.

Police in the north-eastern region of Catalonia are baffled by the vanishing act of the man whose tour of all of the world's 68 Michelin-rated top restaurants stopped abruptly at El Bulli.

Did the 46-year-old flee after running out of money to pay his bill of more than 200 euros or was he attacked in the parking lot? Did he fall off the cliff located near the restaurant on the Costa Brava?

The evidence is so scarce and contradictory that police have not confirmed any of these theories.

"We do not have any detailed information," Jean-Philippe Jeannerat of the Swiss Foreign Ministry says.

Geneva motorcycle courier Henry was not a wealthy man, nor was he well-known in Swiss gastronomy circles.

But he had saved for years to realize his dream of eating at all the three-star restaurants included in the Michelin food guide, going on a tour that would take him to 11 countries in 68 days and allow him to write a book about his experience.

Employees at restaurants he visited were impressed by his knowledge of gastronomy, and he won the protection of renowned Lyon chef Paul Bocuse, who began informing other chefs of his arrival.

Henry had enjoyed haute cuisine in France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands before his tour took him to El Bulli, the restaurant of Catalan chef Ferran Adria, whose menus currently include specialties such as monkfish liver, pig suckling tails and La Reunion tamarind.

After his mysterious disappearance, Henry has not showed up at any of the remaining restaurants on his route, which included Britain, the United States and Japan.

Neither has the separated and childless man been seen in Switzerland.

A week after going missing, Henry confirmed a reservation at a French restaurant, but did not keep it, the daily El Periodico reported.

Someone also cancelled Henry's reservations at eight Japanese restaurants, according to the daily El Pais.

Henry's gastronomy tour would have cost him 17,000 euros in restaurant bills alone, experts calculated, prompting speculation that he had run out of money.

But if he wanted to go underground, why did he leave El Bulli without his hat, photographs and a notebook given to him by Bocuse and signed by several chefs?

Police have combed the area around the restaurant without finding evidence of an accident or other clues.

Some of Henry's family, however, describe him as a secretive man who went missing once before when he was a teenager visiting the United States.

DPA with Expatica

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