The Michelin Guide 2016: Interview with Rebecca Burr

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th September 2015
With the Michelin Guide 2016 now out and it just starting to sink in for the 15 new one stars and the two London restaurants that can hold their heads up high with two, it was only right we speak to the Michelin Guide editor herself - Rebecca Burr. We settle the debate on why Manchester has no Michelin stars, why the next generation are giving the established guys a run for their money and whose food stuck out for her this year. Not quite released in the conventional way twitter was awash yesterday with confusion as to why Michelin guide 2016Michelin Guide UK were frantically getting out there who had been awarded a new star in the 2016 list. After an unfortunate leak from a bookstore Rebecca reveals how it was paramount that their word was gospel on what was going on. She said: Gone are the days where only a few people had access to this information, we’re in a different age but its wasn’t really our fault it was an online bookseller that didn’t respect the embargoed date of release, so a chef that had pre-ordered it received it and started posting on Twitter. “It’s always a bit disappointing but what was important was that we started posting the results on twitter and why twitter? It was the most accessible form of communication with our followers and the industry. We wanted them to hear it from us, it’s important that they weren’t left wondering, if they’re hearing it from a second source, is it true?” Although there is no guarantee that any restaurant will obtain a star all eyes naturally fell to the two and three star categories, especially as there were no new entries last year. Once again there were no new threes but as Rebecca explained the two star level is getting stronger but it’s got to be right in order to put them up to three. She said: “The star level is a fantastic accolade and a world class level, and when we start to think about twos and three stars it’s even stronger. There’s a bit of unfair pressure put onto starred restaurants to go from one, to two, to three. “It’s very easy for diners at their local, whether they’re at a starred place or not, for them to say it’s got to be worth a two but are they exposed to the star levels across the world? Do they realise the difference and what it takes to get there? We need to congratulate the two stars for retaining that level that is always shifting, year on year its getting stronger but not this year no, for three years.” UmuHowever two Japanese restaurants have joined the likes of Sat Bains and Midsummer House with two stars. Umu and Araki both in Mayfair received the good news which shows the diversity of the guide itself in terms of types of cuisines. Rebecca said of the new entries: “When we started making our guides in Asia we knew the level in Japan and we have to recognise that level wherever it is. It’s not us changing who we include it’s us witnessing what’s going on.” With six new restaurants in London gaining a star, making the capital hold an impressive 65 starred establishments, tongues have been wagging as to why places like Manchester still hold none, especially with people like Aiden Byrne and Simon Rogan owning restaurants in the city. Aiming to quash the debate Rebecca said: “I think there’s been a lot of unfair focus on Manchester, it’s a vibrant, energetic city with a lot going on but so is Birmingham and Birmingham has five starred restaurants. “It’s not down to us as such, it’s down to the chefs but it’s been a bit of an unfair light on those two particular restaurants (Aiden and Simon), it would be unfair as to say why but we treat Manchester as we treat every other area we go to. “We certainly dined in those restaurants mentioned but what we would say is ‘have the chefs got the support in the kitchen to operate at that level on a consistent basis?’ We certainly do recognise restaurants that serve big numbers but everyone did jump on the bandwagon and had a lot of people throwing opinion that, no disrespect, might not know that exactly.”Simon Rogan With openings happening near enough on a weekly basis in London surely it’s only right that the guide reflects this? Rebecca explains this hot topic as to just why the capital holds the most amount of stars, she said: “It’s always a difficult one but there is a lot going on, it’s a capital city, there’s a lot of variety and new openings so it’s only right that we focus our selection on that. “We hear a lot from foreign chefs opening up in London and saying that the London diners are a lot more open-minded, they like the variety. “If Birmingham opened up more and more places there then we’d go there as The Michelin Guide is about offering every price, every style and every category – there’s a limited amount going on in Orkney and Shetland but we’ve been there this year.” Of course with any celebration of stars comes the unfortunate list of those that have lost. Speaking about Sienna in Dorchester Rebecca said: “There was a very tight deadline there from when Russell left to when Marcus took over, the timing was very close to the deadline. marcus wilcox low res“We knew Marcus’ background from being at The Rose and Crown in Trent and MasterChef etc so we felt we wanted to go and visit him and keep him in the guide. But in such a short space of time it was always likely he wouldn’t retain the star but we’ll go back and visit again. It’s always very difficult the cross over time but we wish him every success.” One other restaurant was Gordon Ramsay’s Maze which are this year celebrating ten years but with a name like Ramsay attached to the restaurant there was an air of surprise over this deletion but addressing this Rebecca said: “The fact it’s Gordon Ramsay doesn’t make any difference, we pay just as much attention to any restaurant as we feel necessary; it doesn’t matter if it’s a high profile chef or not. “Maze we visited on many occasions as we wanted our decision to be right and unfortunately we didn’t find the consistency that we look for. It’s unfortunate as I know it’s been an anniversary year for them but we need to look at our inspectors experiences and reflect that in our decisions.” With more and more new chefs and restaurants coming forward each year Rebecca certainly feels that the established chefs are being given a run for their money. She said: “They are hot on their heels and they’ll maybe go through it [the guide] at a rapid rate as they’ve entered at such a strong level.goring-shay-cooper “They’re all in such different surroundings – it’s lovely to see Shay Cooper back at Dining Room at The Goring and also Lyle’s, Bonhams and Portland; these are all restaurants of our generation. It’s not us changing it’s the scene changing, these restaurants were not around before and these are skilled, young and focused teams.”

>>>Read our piece on what chefs like Clare Smyth think of Michelin and if they still get nervous

  A clear example of how different the restaurants in the guide can be is John’s House. This new one star from Loughborough has been the restaurant that has stuck out amongst the rest for Rebecca this year. She said: “I would have to say the find of the year has to be John’s House. f9edd036e1a24014e715b14b62117bab_f140“To go into the guide at that level is impressive, he worked in the Cotswolds and had experience at Hibiscus and Marcus Wareing and he only opened in December 2014 or something like that. But it’s on a family farm and you think ‘really that sort of talent is in there’ but it’s a super place and he really does cook his own style and he’s destined for good things in the future.” It’s anyone’s guess as to what is going to happen for next year’s guide, will there be more two stars joining the ranks or will be finally see a two going up into the three star list? All Rebecca knows is that Michelin are going to continue to invest in their inspectors as she said: “It’s important we invest in these inspectors knowledge in order to bring that back here and make that level comparable to the rest of the world.” By Aimee Davis

>>>Catch up with the full list here to see for yourself who has gained and lost a star

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th September 2015

The Michelin Guide 2016: Interview with Rebecca Burr