Michelin Guide UK 2020: winners' reactions

The  Staff Canteen

After a record number of new Michelin stars were awarded in the UK Guide 2020, we spoke to the winners about how it feels to have a place on the notorious list.

Niall Keating, The Dining Room at Whatley Manor

“It’s amazing, I’m really blown away. My feet aren’t touching the floor, I don’t really know what’s going on.”

“I don’t think you really expect it, I really really wanted to achieve it but whether or not that would happen or not you never really know I think, unless you get told before and I definitely didn’t.”

“I don’t know what this feeling feels like, to see all the chefs that I admire so much and have worked so hard… I just can’t wait to see my guys, to see my team”

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Mickael Viljanen, Greenhouse Dublin

“Feels amazing, I didn’t expect it at all, just came over here for the weekend…”

The chef said it was a team effort. “It’s for them as much as it is for me, they all work so hard, all the staff, they work so hard just to be better everyday.”

“Ireland hasn’t had a new two star restaurant for sixteen or seventeen years, and to have two in one go is amazing for the country. It’s amazing.”

His message to any chefs striving for the stars? “Keep going. Keep doing what you’re doing, even the days when you feel like not going.”

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Jordan Bailey, Aimsir

“I was very nervous about even getting one, we’ve only been open for four and a half months so when we got the invite I cried for sure. It’s just a hell of a team effort. We have an amazing team behind us, obviously my wife is sitting right next to me.”

“Getting a Michelin star has been a dream since I was a little boy, to get two is… I don’t know what to say, it’s crazy.”

His restaurant team, he said, was watching the stream live. “They’re all very very happy,” he said.

Johannes Nuding, The Library & Lecture Room at Sketch

The chef at the only new three star restaurant said: “it’s amazing, for all of us, not just for me. With Gagnaire, the team, we’re all very pleased.

He said that Pierre Gagnaire was on a plane at the time of the announcement – so it was unbeknown to him that he had won the guide’s top accolade.

Asked what it takes to get three Michelin stars, he said: “I have no idea. Ask the Michelin Guide. We work hard everyday, we get the best products, we try to get the best menus, we taste and we change until we’re happy, and then the season’s over and we start a new menu.”

“The experience of monsieur Gagnaire, 50 years in the trade and more, other Michelin star restaurants, I have access to so many resources. You have to have this team, this body which you can rely on and that makes great things happen.”

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Lee Westcott, Pensons

“It was a long-time coming.”

“I got an email invitation on Friday. But then just I s**t myself that they might have brought back the Rising Star and that would be my luck, wouldn’t it? But we actually got it, so I’m pretty happy.”

On whether he had been expecting it, the chef said: “Don’t get me wrong, every chef works kind of towards it, I guess, but it wasn’t the be all and end all. We’ve only been open 8 months, it was a tough opening and to be honest, I didn’t think it would happen, so I’m fucking happy that it has”

Michael Wignall, The Angel at Hetton

Asked whether he thinks there's such a thing as a "winning formula" for Michelin stars, the chef said: "I just think consistency and just believe in what you’re doing. Stick to your guns. And the most important thing is your team, having a good team behind you.

"Wherever I’ve gone, stupidly enough they follow me and so the stars come which is a testament to their hard work and dedication.”

The chef said he got his invitation five weeks ago.

"So it was a bit of a like ‘am I being invited because I’ve had two before or whatever?’ It was a bit of an unknown until we were announced just then.”

“The most important thing [about getting a star] is that it means a lot to the team. I work them hard and I work hard and it’s a great big celebration of everyone’s hard work.”

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Laurie Gear, The Artichoke

“It means the world to us. I think it’s a testament to the hard work delivered by the head chef, the entire kitchen team and, in its own way, the front of house team as well, led by Garrick.”

Asked what it meant to stand up on stage with chef Raymond Blanc, he said: “It was lovely. He was with us in the early days when we were still forming the restaurant together. We’ve come a long way since then, so it was icing on the cake."

 "Since Ben and I got our heads together properly in the last 5-6 years, things have really gelled. And just focusing on what we’re doing and not worrying about stars and thing like that.”

Michael Tweedie, The Oak Room at Adare Manor

“I’ve worked my whole career for this. It means everything for the guys in the kitchen and front of house. It’s a massive achievement for Limerick – Limerick is not known for its food and it’s great for Ireland. All round it’s positive for us.”

Having a Michelin star, he explained, isn't going to change how they run things in the kitchen.

“The main thing we want is happy guests and that’s all I want. Having a Michelin star, not having a Michelin star, the main thing for me is for all our guests to enjoy themselves.”

Graeme Cheevers, Isle of Eriska

"Getting a star here just gives me the confidence to move forward and push on and do what I’m doing and cook my style of food and please the customers give me the recognition for the hard work that I’ve done in the last year going into a new position."

"To me it changes nothing, it gives me a greater goal to achieve. It gives me a grounding to build, you know, its platform from now to progress."

"I want to cook great food and please the customers - to me it changes nothing." 

Simon Martin, Mana

On getting the first Michelin star for Manchester in forty years, the chef said: "It’s fantastic for the city, it really is. We didn’t do it for that, that was never the aim. The aim was to open the restaurant."

His success, he said, can largely be attributed to a conjugal feud. "I was forced to come back home from Copenhagen because my girlfriend said she would dump me if I didn’t." 

"I didn’t want to work for anyone else because I felt like it was that time in my career where I should work on my own and the ethos behind everything we do is creating a great environment for staff in order for them to deliver the best possible experience for the guests and that’s all we really care about."

"Obviously, this is the absolute icing on the cake and something I've wanted for a long time, but the ultimate focus is always on the guests – it’s nothing else. The ambition was just to have a fully booked restaurant where all of our guests and all of our staff are happy."

"I've always respected the guide, I’m an avid user of the guide and I always have been since I got into cooking so to be recognised by them it says to me that we are doing the right thing and we are on the right path."

Luca Piscazzi, La Dame de Pic

The chef said the two stars were both “Expected and unexpected. Of course we worked for this result, that doesn’t mean that we expected it but me and my team worked very hard for it so we’re very happy.”  

“I always want more so of course one star was not enough. We have the potential with Four Seasons to do more.”

“I have to thank all my team, without them, we couldn’t make it for sure.”

Though Anne-Sophie Pic wasn’t able to attend the events, he said, “we just spoke together and we cried together on the phone.”

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th October 2019

Michelin Guide UK 2020: winners' reactions