“Just look at Niall Keating, he’s a rocket!” International director of the Michelin Guide, Gwendal Poullennec talks about the UK’s young chefs on the global stage.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th October 2019

There were a record number of stars awarded in the Michelin Guide UK and Ireland 2020 taking the total up to 187. But how does that compare to the rest of the world?

International director of the Michelin Guide, Gwendal Poullennec spoke to The Staff Canteen about keeping the guide relevant, UK talent and how the ‘Michelin Guide is not a box you have to fit inside’.

“This is the best year ever,” explained Gwendal. “It’s important to mention we don’t change the criteria from year to year so this stellar year really reflects both the vibrancy and dynamism of the local food scene and all the talent here.”

“A real insight this year is that all the chefs are young chefs and young couples, there was also a lot of success outside of London too which for me was one of the highlights.”

He added: “It’s very exciting for Michelin, the world food scene is getting better and better so it’s good to see the UK doing so well.”

“The Michelin Guide is not a box you have to fit inside, everyone has to find their own way – don’t work for the star, work for the client. Work for the stars you put in their eyes!”

During this year’s awards Gwendal said on stage, ‘some of the newly awarded one stars will be knocking on the doors of the two stars very soon’.

“I was very sincere when I said that. They are really pushing and improving very quickly. Just look at Niall Keating, he’s a rocket!

“The young chefs are so vibrant, even on the stage, it’s a positive emulation. It’s a fair competition which is really pulling up the quality of the restaurant market. Which is good for the customer!”

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Gwendal Poullenne, Mickael Viljanen from The Greenhouse in Dublin and Raymond Blanc

This year the excitement from chefs as they received new stars was on another level – Mickael Viljanen from The Greenhouse in Dublin picked up and dropped Raymond Blanc! But Gwendal thinks it’s great that the UK chefs ‘express themselves freely’.

He said: “Depending on the culture the chefs can be very shy but in the UK it’s a lot of fun, it’s authentic and sincere.

This year Sketch joined the four other three star UK restaurants, around the world there are 113 in total so there are ‘very few places worth a special journey’.

“Even in a year in the life as the International Director of the guide, it [three stars] is quite rare. Most of the year we don’t have three star level restaurants to reveal.

“It’s a real achievement, there is no special recipe but it takes not only a lot of work but a lot of talent. It also takes team work, at this level it can’t be a one man show because you also have to be consistent. There isn’t one way to get the three stars and when you look at the 113 none of them can be compared to one another. They are all different.

“Very few make it into that club but that is what makes it extraordinary.”

He added: “The Michelin Guide is not a box you have to fit inside, everyone has to find their own way – don’t work for the star, work for the client. Work for the stars you put in their eyes!”

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Sketch (The Lecture Room & Library) in Mayfair (Johannes Nuding)

With everybody now able to review and critique restaurants thanks to social media and TripAdvisor, how does Michelin remain relevant to consumers when fighting against these other outlets?

“We don’t fight, I think social media is with us,” said Gwendal. “We released one star in advance on Friday and the short video on twitter was seen more than 100,000 times.

“In the world of digital I think people are really looking for quality information and that is exactly what Michelin provides. Most of the time we are the first in the field, we are the first to reveal and it’s information people can trust.”

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th October 2019

“Just look at Niall Keating, he’s a rocket!” International director of the Michelin Guide, Gwendal Poullennec talks about the UK’s young chefs on the global stage.