'We didn't know what Michelin would do with Andrew passing away in January': Stevie McLaughlin on retaining two stars

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

It's not easy to retain a Michelin star -  Stevie McLaughlin, who has worked at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie since it opened in 2001, told The Staff Canteen

He spoke to us about whether the team feared they would lose the accolades after Andrew's death, what it takes to maintain such a high standard and how important it is to work as a team. 

The late Andrew Fairlie was an icon in the industry and his legacy lives on through the team, namely through head chef Stevie, who he met at One Devonshire Gardens in 1993 and who moved on with him to launch his eponymous restaurant at Gleneagles. The restaurant received a Michelin star - Scotland's first - in 2002, followed by a second in 2006. 

Restaurant Andrew Fairlie
Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles

Though there were bound to be questions as to whether the restaurant would maintain its two stars following Andrew's, Stevie said he and his team didn't experience a brutal transition at the restaurant and their hard work persisted despite it all. 

"We're full of pride, over the moon, I'm really, really pleased for the team. Their discipline and their consistency plays a huge part in maintaining two stars." 

Asked whether the team feared it may lose one (or both) of its stars, he said: "We weren't fearful, we were just unsure. We didn't know what Michelin would do with Andrew passing away in January.

"But within ourselves, we knew that what we did was as good as we've always done, so no, we weren't fearful that we would lose one - or two - stars.

"We work to the same level everyday, the whole team together. We work in unison together, we're all there working to achieve the same goals. Our consistency, our quality, nothing has changed. 

What is the 'key' to maintaining stars?

"The thing with Michelin is that there is no criteria. You don't wake up in the morning and say 'okay, to get a Michelin star, I need to do this, to lose a Michelin star, I need to do this. To go from two to three I need to do this. You don't know, there's no criteria. 

"So you play to your strengths consistently, you work within your parameters, you are comfortable and confident within your own team, yourself, and you're always looking to be better. You're always looking to evolve and develop." 

andrew fairlie

'This time next year, we want to have a better restaurant'

Asked whether as a team, they strive for more accolades, he said: "No. We get out of bed and we come to work and we want to be a better restaurant next year than we are this year. Whatever that is, whatever that involves, it could be changing the music, it could be little subtle changes in the scent in the room, we could introduce a new cooking technique.

"For us as a team, it's a restaurant we're running, it's an experience that we're providing for customers. It's an experience that we're providing for the staff as well. The customers are really important but the staff are the most important thing. 

Though the perception may be that to maintain a star means to stay at a certain level, the chef explained that it isn't so much about constance, but a drive forward. 

"We naturally evolve, we organically develop, we don't twist or contrive anything. We're very natural and organic in our approach to everything. We play to our strengths.

"What we do do, is this time next year, we want to have a better restaurant. Whatever that is we don't know todaybut in 52 weeks time we want to be working in a better restaurant.

"It could be better conditions, it could be shorter hours, it could be developing a dish that's been on the menu for a couple of years into a better dish. 

"Michelin is just there to recognise the food and the cookery but as a chef, as a manager and as a business we want to be a better restaurant. 

lorna mcnee2
Lorna McNee, sous chef at 
Restaurant Andrew Fairlie

"The customers that are coming through the doors, we want them to have a better experience next year." 

'Andrew didn't single handedly hold the reigns'

The chef said that this year had been quite a unique situation in terms of people's expectations.

"Someone who's held in very high esteem within the industry isn't here anymore. But he handed over a very successful business to people he worked with for a very long time. 

"Myself and Dale have forty years combined at the restaurant. Over the course of fifteen years, Andrew being smart, he knew where this was going to go, and that was something that we handled with him. It's like every restaurant, we did it together, and that will continue to be the essence, the ethos in what we do. 

"In many ways it's quite easy, there's no shock for anybody. It's just for outsiders looking in, thinking, 'shit, what do they do now.' There are things that are new for us coming along but there are tons of things that we've been doing anyway for four, five, six years, you know?

When it boils down to it, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie is still the institution he and the team built it to be, and his passing won't change that, Stevie explained: "Andrew didn't single handedly hold the reigns, everything was very even. Andrew had a great amount of trust, he was a great collaborator. He loved bringing people in, he loved developing people, making people stronger. Nothing is going to change. That's in our blood, that's at our core, it's the essence of what we do. 

"It's what people - chefs, waiters - come to the restaurant for, it's all part of the training. Instilling self-discipline, instilling the confidence and the belief in yourself." 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 11th October 2019

'We didn't know what Michelin would do with Andrew passing away in January': Stevie McLaughlin on retaining two stars