Why did the Araki lose all three of its Michelin stars?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th October 2019

What made Michelin decide to strip The Araki of all three of its Michelin stars, with no explanation given to chef Marty Lau and his team?

Last week’s Michelin announcement was full of surprises. A star was handed out three days before the awards gala; Jordan Bailey’s Irish restaurant, Aimsir, which opened just five months ago, received two stars in one go; and despite your best predictions, neither Clare Smyth nor Claude Bosi were awarded a third star - but Pierre Gagnaire’s Sketch was.

Another unexpected turn of events came with The Araki, which toppled down from having three stars all the way down to none. Although the restaurant’s head chef and founder, Mitsuhiro Araki, left earlier this year, this rarely happens unless a restaurant closes.

Chef Michael O'Hare took to his Instagram feed to express a sentiment widely shared across the industry: that the chef's leaving shouldn't have had such a big impact on the guide's decision, because the standard of the food remains extremely high. 

View this post on Instagram

I’m not sure why this restaurant lost a single Michelin star this year ? Let alone all 3 ... quite simply the best restaurant in the country .. I know that Mr Araki is no longer there but why does that matter how many 3 star chefs are at their restaurants... ? Heston , Gordon, Pierre gagnaire, Alain Ducasse?? Literally none ... not that it matters as they are all left in trusted hands that are just as skilled and driven.. this is also true of The Araki .. not a new chef just the same team that were there when I ate last time the food standards have not dropped one bit ... I know it’s just a guide book and it doesn’t really mean anything.. but it means a lot to a lot of people and this I feel is a huge injustice. Thank you to everyone for delivering an incredible night. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone!!

A post shared by Michael O'Hare (@ohare.michael) on

Back story

The Araki was launched by Mitsuhiro Araki in 2014, after the chef closed his three Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo and followed Joël Robuchon’s advice to relocate to London. He received his first star within the first year of opening, a second the following year, and a third in the 2018 guide.

With the Araki, Mitsuhiro brought the world renowned ‘edomae sushi’ to the UK for the first time. The culinary technique created in Tokyo dates back over 200 years, and is still hard to find this side of the globe. Endo at the Rotunda, recently awarded its first Michelin star, is one of them.

'We had no explanation. We were left completely in the dark'

When Mitsuhiro left in March, he passed on the helm to his apprentice, Marty Lau, who trained with him for the past four years. Though one might expect that the guide would have warned the restaurant or offered a rationale as to why it took away the stars, the chef insisted that nobody approached them.

"We had no previous warning. We had no explanation. We were left completely in the dark as to why," Marty Lau told Sky News.

"We leave it to Michelin's discretion."

Despite the loss, which is undeniably life-changing and which have led some to extreme lengths, the chef said that he had no bad feelings towards the guide, calling the event “character building.”

"We had a lot of newspapers not requesting a comment. They all just said we lost stars, like it was the end of the world. That's not very nice, but it's only going to inspire," he said.

"As disappointing as it is not to have any stars straight away, I am humbled to be starting off like my master did without any stars.

"I take it on the chin, honestly."

Whereas in Japan, a “sensei” (master) oversees an apprentice and is a source of inspiration and guidance, he explained, in the West, “it's more about being independent,” which could go a way to explain why the guide saw it fit to remove the restaurants stars until the chef has proved his own merit.

We may venture a guess, but the guide remains shrouded in mystery, largely unaccountable and sharing its secrets only to the extent that it makes sense to.

The chef hasn’t been stopped in his steps and has said that although getting the stars back would be a great accomplishment, happy diners remains the top priority.

"We will have some guests who will go, 'Oh, you're not Michelin' and that's okay. It gives me motivation to work harder, to prove myself, and I think it inspires the team.

"The best form of advertisement is the word of mouth. That's what we go for. The Michelin is just a lovely supplement on top of it.

Asked what he would say to representatives of the guide given the chance, he said: "Thank you very much. I will keep doing my best."

What are your thoughts chefs? Why do you think the Michelin Guide took away The Araki's stars? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th October 2019

Why did the Araki lose all three of its Michelin stars?