Michelin Guide: It's not all about the newbies

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th September 2015
As the Michelin UK Guide comes back around for another year all eyes are on who’s going to be the next restaurant to be awarded one, two or three coveted Michelin stars. However what about those that have retained their stars for 10, 20 and even 30 years, should just as much celebration be given to those that have kept hold of them rather than just focusing on the newbies? We’ve spoken to Clare Smyth from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, who’s retained for 14 years, Michel Roux Jr, 11 years with two stars and Alain Roux from The Waterside Inn, a place that is currently holding the title of retaining their three stars the longest…an impressive 30 years. We find out what it all means to them and if they still get nervous when the guides come back around.Terrace 9723 Of course to gain recognition from any guide is a sign that you’re doing something right in the eyes of Michelin but is it the be-all and end-all for a chef that is twenty years on in their career, comfortable with their style and knowing what they’re all about? For Michel Roux Jr this isn’t at the forefront of his mind, for him it’s about cooking for your customers. He said: “I’ve always said, as my father has as well, you shouldn’t cook for any guide or a great review - you should cook for your customers and if they return then you’re doing the right thing. “Only then if you’re doing the right thing then the plaudits and recognition will come, how that comes or manifests itself can be in various ways. It can be through bloggers, reviews online or through the ‘heavyweight’ ones – Good Food Guide, Michelin Guide etc.” This is a view mirrored by Clare Smyth, for her she’s eight years along in her role at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and isn’t “looking about the guides necessarily”. Clare explained: “I don’t think that you should be as it’s not a good position to be in. “I feel a lot more confident the older I get and I know what I’m doing, I feel I push the envelope the more I do; I’m a 100% in it.”

>>>Watch our videos with Clare here

Luculus 0038 Although, Waterside Inn is 30 years with three stars but this still doesn’t stop Alain getting nervous, he said: “I am worried yes as we all know the way the guides work, nobody knows what can happen. The star is a work of a team but you have to be cautious as you could lose a star the following year.” For Michel however he’s “focused on the daily running of the restaurant” rather than worrying about cooking for the guides which he feels some chefs focus too much on. He said: “I do think that many young chefs get caught up in the vortex of wanting to please and tick boxes because they believe that’s the way these inspectors want food to be presented and served and it’s wrong. “Cooking should be from the heart and an expression of yourself and how you feel and should be for your customers. I’m sure if you were to interview someone from the Michelin Guide they would second my opinion and say that’s the most important thing.” Michel and Clare aren’t however dismissing the recognition that Le Gavroche and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay have received from Michelin. Michel said: “The guide is of great importance, I think it has huge respect and huge value but other guides as well. We need them in many respects, we need media and recognition so whatever way that comes we have to take it.” Alain Roux also feels that the guide is the “most respected” and understands the business it can bring. He said: “We all know the star brings you a lot, not only personally but for the team and for the business”. However knowing what is needed in order to stay at the top of the guides Alain isn’t too sure.Alain Roux on the terrace 9851 He said: “It’s difficult to say what cooking at that level means, I’m not sure what that means. It’s difficult I think for anybody to explain what cooking three star food is. “People who have three stars are generally cooking what they like but at the same time respecting the customer, as at the end of the day the customer is travelling and spending a fair amount of money and service.” Although Michel has a clearer idea of what he thinks the guides are looking for, he said: “The guides are looking for consistency and great cooking first and foremost, but you’ve got to be within your times as well, for example in the 80s nouveau cuisine was all the rage, and that style of food was recognised as high end and worthy of three Michelin stars.” Clare agrees that times change and so must the food being served in order to remain at the top level. She said: “A three star restaurant ten years ago isn’t the same as a three star restaurant today – the level continues to improve and go up. restaurant gordon ramsay dishes“Investing in your team and continuous development never stops, every plate that leaves the kitchen - the discipline is tremendous; you’ve got to have that every single day. You’ve got to be 100% focused to maintain those three stars and to evolve it at the same time; it’s a real dedication.” However it’s this dedication that Clare, Michel and Alain all believe needs to be celebrated, they know it’s inevitable that a new one star is going to gain the publicity, as Michel explains: “It’s newsworthy isn’t it, a restaurant that gains a star will hit the news in the same sense that the critics will go to a new restaurant and not one that has been around for 40 – 50 years”, but it’s important nonetheless, as Clare says, to get the news out there. She said: “I think to win a star or get that recognition is a big achievement and it’s nice that people are celebrated for doing that. “Generally it’s good news and its good publicity for them, it makes everyone realise who they are.”Marinated var salmon with lemon and vodka jelly - Le Gavroche Alain echoes this although does believe those that have retained their stars for a number of years should be celebrated in this way too. He said: “There aren’t many restaurants that have achieved stars for so long, I think we should celebrate this. It’s important to do it but in terms of more fuss? It’s not the World Cup or the Olympic Games but it’s something that should be done nevertheless.” Celebrating Michelin stars should be celebrated no matter the level but it’s definitely not all about the newbies as Clare agrees with Alain and said: “I think some of the guys that hold on to their stars are more comfortable in their position but getting the news out there is really important and letting everyone know that the restaurant is at that level.” By Aimee Davis

>>>With the Michelin Guide 2016 coming out tomorrow read what food writer Andy Hayler thinks about Michelin and which restaurants he is championing this year.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th September 2015

Michelin Guide: It's not all about the newbies