Michelin Guide UK 2019: winners reactions

The Staff Canteen

It's been another year of exciting results in the Michelin Guide UK 2019, we spoke to some of the new Michelin star chefs to find out how it feels to be appearing in the new guide.

The Staff Canteen spoke to some of the winning chefs after the live event to find out how they were feeling! 

New two star restaurants

Clare Smyth and Jonny Bone, Core by Clare Smyth

Clare - "It means a lot obviously to us – it’s an endorsement of what we have been doing over the last year. For us, it’s just getting on another level for where we want to be. We are not kids – we didn’t start yesterday. We know what we are doing so it is amazing to achieve it. It’s such a relief to get it the first year out of the way and to receive such good recognition – it’s just really nice."

Jonny – "The support from the industry has been phenomenal, so nice!"

Clare – "The support and respect has been amazing. I don’t think there is any more pressure when your name is above the door – I really don’t feel any more pressure than I did every day working at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Holding three stars for all those years required a tremendous amount of focus. It’s a bit different now as there are more things to do and Jonny has really headed up our kitchen every day and I am doing so many other things now. It’s a whole team effort in a way. We don’t have a head office – everything is done in-house. It’s a little team but we do everything ourselves. It’s a good work ethic."

Jonny- "Whether it is our name or not our name (above the door), we still give 100% every single day. We deliver as much as we can. We try as hard as we can, and we do exactly the same thing at Core as we did before."

Clare – "When it comes to social media, I think it is a good way to communicate to the wider public what you are doing, and I think it is really nice to share those stories. For us, we have such a depth – our dishes have an extraordinary about of research and we want to share that. It is really all about people and it’s very British as well and we want to tell that story. It enriches peoples’ experiences."

Jonny – "They understand the story from start to finish - with social media you can bring them in from the moment that the product arrives at the back door right through to the moment they have it on their plate. The pictures that they see on Instagram are exactly the same as what they will see when they sit down at a table."

Clare – "To receive the award from Gordon was so fitting for me personally. Gordon has been the biggest influence on my career and my life. He has been behind Core all of the way (more than people know actually, a lot more than people know) It’s a big extended family and we want to make him proud, us proud and these guys proud. Matt from Royal Hospital Road – they are our family – I grew up with these guys and it means a lot to me that they are here to see us branch out and do something else. "

Mark Birchall, Moor Hall

“It means everything – it’s everything I have ever worked for, it’s why we are chefs, it’s why we do this. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but we know what we are doing and I am not saying we deserve anything but we just fucking work hard and try to please our guests. We know our level and we know where we are and know what we have to do. There is a long way for us to go and we have so much more to do and that will never change. I am not saying I will never be happy, but I will always want more (in a good way!).

It's a massive gamble – we are not in London and we are two and a half hours door to door from Euston. We don’t have that footfall and people that just pop in on a Wednesday night - this will give us a platform and will attract more people to the area. We will put Aughton on the map – it just opens a gateway to the county. I am made up, absolutely made up!"

James Knappett, Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs

“Honestly, it just means that from the day I started cooking until now and further on, you’re just recognised for all of your hard work. The sacrifices we’ve made to get where we are today are unbelievable and it just makes it all worth it. Weddings, parties and family occasions that I’ve missed because I’ve been dedicated to my restaurant – today is one of those days where you think: that’s why I did it. My head’s been down for a long time, I’ve kept my head down, I’ve always been strict, I’m never messing with the bullshit. Don’t do this, don’t do that, just keep your head down, do what you believe in and one day, what you deserve will come to you. I’m from a humble background and I’ve always cooked like that and sometimes I used to think why aren’t we in this guide and I just thought, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t change and one day, if we’re recognised by Michelin, that will be why I did it all.

"If young chefs are reading this, I couldn’t voice more that you will never get something like this – one, two, let alone three star without graft. Every chef that wins a star, every chef that I know that has one, every chef that has two or three, they’ve all grafted. For Gordon to give me that, I’ve still never worked alongside a man, back when I was there, that I’ve seen graft as much as he did. When I worked for him, some nights he was cooking on the meat station – that’s how young I was when I worked with him. When I was there, he was a two star and I’ve never seen a human work like that and it was obvious that things aren’t given to you on a silver platter and if you want it, you have to work for it. And the young chefs now that are coming in now, send us CVs after a year in the trade and they want to be my sous chef, there’s a lot more to do before you get to that stage.

Husband and wife relationship up to the six years has been both super tough and super enjoyable. I’ve made her cry so much through my chef ways – that breaks your heart as a husband that you can make your wife cry. She’s stressed me out beyond belief and I have stressed her out too. At the end of the day, we’ve matured now six years on that looking back, we don’t regret anything. We’ve tested each other – she’s told me ‘this is shit’, I’ve told her ‘that’s shit’ and I think having each other and pushing them boundaries to each other has put us where we are because I’m just a chef owner and I employ a restaurant manager, he’ll listen to you all day and you’ll bully him into doing everything but when you’ve got your partner at your side, they’ll just tell you to fuck off if they don’t believe in it. It’s very rare for someone to challenge you – especially with my background and how I trained. I’m a hard chef and I demand a lot but you lead by example and I give us much as I demand. Without her, I wouldn’t have two stars. Without her, I wouldn’t have my restaurant – she even pushed me into doing our own thing anyway so she’s the two Michelin stars as much as I am.”

New one star restaurants

Chris Cleghorn, The Olive Tree

“We’ve had many years where we thought we might have had a look at it but this year, it was not expected! My heart stopped when I got the email – I did not believe it and thought it must have been a fake. Then you click on it and it has all your details. I think having the star will change the team morale and help to bring staff in, helping them to understand our values, our aspirations and attention to detail.”

Colin McGurran, Winteringham Fields

“I was surprised. We’ve been waiting a long time for this so we keep polishing every year. This year was our year, which is very much appreciated. We don’t take it for granted – we’re very humbled by it and to be a part of the Michelin group and team of great chefs and talent. We’re looking forward to getting back in the kitchen and to keep pushing for higher standards.

"Many years ago, the property had two stars and that put pressure on me. I felt shackled to their reputation and trying to fill a huge pair of shoes but as time passed, I’ve felt as if the identity has become more and more mine and hopefully this is a line in the sand of where the old Winteringham Fields and the new Winteringham Fields crosses. I very much thought to maintain the business, it needed to be as it was historically and then you wake up one morning and you think ‘Why am I banging my head against a brick wall trying to be someone who I’m not?”.

"Then you decide, when business starts to get tough, you need to have your own identity and I can’t be Germain Schwab– I just have to be myself and we just took everything away that stressed us out and then we fell in love with simple cooking again. We decided to have our own produce, which means we fell in love with ingredients, which means we fell in love with cooking again. That’s the journey we’ve been on and I think we’re quite unique in our area.”

Tim Allen, Flitch of Bacon

“Honestly, it’s huge! We are in a little village in the middle of nowhere so to get a bit of work midweek is really hard. We have all worked our socks off – everybody, everyone – everybody does everything. From the washing up, cleaning the spinach and cleaning the rooms – everything.

"It’s just massive, everyone is blown away, absolutely blown away.

"I hope that a star will help with recruitment (of staff) I had a guy turn down a job last week and he has just messaged me saying ‘I think I’ve made a hasty decision! Can I come and work with you?’. I have said ‘of course you can', I am not precious – I want us to do well. It’s going to be a big drive for us to do that. I have just got 11 emails for bookings in the last hour, so it speaks wonders.

"Changing the prices is the last thing we want to do. That’s why we offer a bar menu for £12. We are trying to be part of where we are and that’s really important. I have not got any intentions of hiking up our prices. It’s just about good food, not that we are going to fucking pull your pants down for a meal. We just want to look after people, cook them good food and have them come back."

Steve Drake, Sorrel

“The team have worked so hard this year – everybody has given 200%. It has been a tough year, but an incredible year and we have really seen the fruits of our labour. We have worked so hard and tried to keep it simple (almost going back to basics) – natural, just real pure cooking – food that we really want to eat.

"The guys have been incredible, unbelievable – I couldn’t have done it without anyone else. When I opened Sorrel, I was happy to just cook and see what happened but once we opened, I just couldn’t help myself. I was trying not to try too hard. I just wanted to keep it natural. I have had no staff leave me at all. The team have been absolutely solid – I think I have really learnt a lot over the years about that side of things. I am really tough on them, but equally, they are really tough on me as well. We have got a great dynamic."

Dom Robinson, The Blackbird

"I can't describe how it feels, it is surreal and it means everything to us as a small business. It is so humbling to be on stage with Gordon Ramsay, arguably one of the best chefs we've ever produced and then an audience of literally a who's who of Michelin-starred chefs - it's super. One star is one step closer to getting three! It's a huge achievement and it's just the first step of what I want to achieve. 

"Our style is proper cooking and good food so there is a certain amount of vindication that I went with an idea and it paid off."

Chris Simpson, Gidleigh Park

"It was great to get on stage and a big thank you to the team at Gidleigh - they have been fantastic this year. Now we are looking forward to the years to come - Gidleigh park is an iconic place and we just want to progress further. 

"I've worked for some great chefs and they have all been great mentors but it feels really great to finally achieve a star for myself."

Ollie Dabbous, Hide 

"Hide is a huge operation so to get a star, doing that many covers, feels like a real success. Above all I'm thrilled for the team - doing any opening is hard never mind one of this magnitude so to get a star six months later is testimony to their hard work, attention to detail and efforts. 

"So I'm really thrilled an looking forward to building on it."

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd October 2018

Michelin Guide UK 2019: winners reactions