Michelin

Michelin Guide Launch 2017:
Exclusive Interview with Editor Rebecca Burr.

secret-michelin-bibendum

Secret Michelin Bibendum

This year the secretive organisation that is the Michelin Guide changed their format for announcing the new Michelin Stars 2017 (for assessments to August 2016). Previous years these were announced via a trade press release at 7.30 in the morning, with no further comments other than through key interviews awarded to the press, with the illusive editor Rebecca Burr.

This year however a ‘Star studded’ event was organised at a venue overlooking the Thames and the sunny Autumn skyline. All the one Star chefs from London were invited to attend. Also the UK and Irelands two and three Star chefs. Other selected chefs , who did not have stars , were also invited , although were not told of their fate, some understood to be up for some of new special recognition awards such as the Michelin Welcome Service Award 2017.

Gourmet-Lifestyle founder James Day (JD below) was delighted  to be invited through our support for ‘Rising  Star’ young chefs and thorough creating Michelin eXperiences across the UK via our ‘GrEATest BRITISH’ Chefs initiatives. Also we were honoured to interview Rebecca Burr (RB below) after the announcements. 

Once the drinks reception and chance to meet the sponsors was over, where we chatted to chefs including Raymond Blanc, Jason Atherton, Sat Baines, Tom Kerridge, Marcus Wearing and David Everritt-Matthias who were each tainted with apprehension, we were led downstairs to the auditorium to hear the fate of all who strive for perfection in the kitchens across the UK. There was a lot of trepidation and quite a few surprises during the slick 1.5 hour presentations from the heads of Michelin worldwide and their sponsors.

Afterwards we were invited to chat to editor Rebecca in another secret room, MI5 style, about the day’s proceedings and assess the years’ inspections.

JD Firstly thank you for our invitation today. It’s been an enlightening and humbling experience being amongst some of the greatest British chefs some of whom it must be said were out of their comfort zone, many very apprehensive about how the next few hours would evolve. Some of the two stars and even a three star chef was asking me what I think would happen. No-one knew, which all added to the tension and experience – How do you think your first live launch went?

RB I watched from this secret room as I need to remain anonymous, but from the live screen we were delighted they could all find time on their days off to come and support us. It is very difficult as we had to limit numbers. This year inviting only the London based chefs and those two and three stars from across the UK to attend.

JD Do you think next year you will repeat this and if so change any format, or indeed the location, perhaps out of London?

RB We have had some learnings today as it was new for all of us in the UK. We too are constantly striving to improve so will take those on board for next year. Who knows we may host in another city such as Birmingham as it too is becoming a centre for Stars.

JD. Indeed, with one of the new Stars this year being Peels Restaurant at Hampton Manor near Birmingham Airport.  When we chatted last year you suggested they were one to watch. What impressed you this year to warrant securing such a high accolade compared to last year?

RB It’s a large property with a lot of elements and it’s fair to say they were finding their feet and taking their time, which is the right thing to do. They seem to have focused more this year and adopted the Nordic/Scandinavian style of menus and they have become more consistent which is key. It’s one thing to replicate a type of food or cuisine, but another to bring it to a consistent Star level and they have certainly achieved that this year. Supported of course by one of our new awards of Welcome Service Award restaurant which we were delighted to present to them. This award recognised the communications between the kitchen and the front of house team which adds to the customer experience, helping their customers feel at ease. We felt it was important to also recognise that...it’s adding to the six stars now held in Birmingham, which is certainly an achievement.

JD For every winner there seems to be a loser sadly. It’s seems it’s like for like on Stars with last year 14 new stars and 14 removed. And this year 20 and almost as many lost. With regions like Ludlow now being barren of stars now that Mr Underhill’s has closed and other Chefs losing out. There is of course the issue of Manchester remaining barren despite there being a high calibre presence of key chefs. Why do you think this is?

RB As we have discussed previously, the inspectors do not take into account the region. Each chef, meal, dish is taken on its own merits. We also emphasise it’s about freshness, consistency and individuality, Stars are awarded to chefs and venues that focus and remain consistent. If on the rare occasion we need to reverse this Decision it is not taken lightly and we do revisit to make the final decisions. We do appreciate it can affect chefs and their business as they all work such long hours and committed to what they do. I must re-iterate there is no like for like on stars, if we do award a new one, it doesn’t mean we need to take one away, it’s just the way it has happened in recent years.

JD Michael Wignall was of course a winner, achieving his two Stars for Gidleigh Park, Devon. He had big shoes to fill taking over from Michael Caines, and despite holding two stars this time last year at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park, it almost added to the pressure that he had everything to loose. I must say though, I have been chatting to him and he was understandably delighted, and Im sure he won’t mind me saying, relieved.

RB Yes Michael Wignall made a brave decision to move, and we knew there was a lot at stake for him to move. It’s never easy taking over from another head chef with a star, never mind two – which is why we introduced our new awards this year for chefs/venues that had changed, but retained their stars under their own merits. Michael was the only Chef to retain two stars and we were delighted he travelled all this way to collect them, although I understand he wasn’t aware until we announced it, which I’m sure was such a relief.

Michelin Award Two Stars to Chef James Close of Restaurant Raby Hunt

Michelin Award Two Stars to Chef James Close of Restaurant Raby Hunt

JD This year is the first full year of your social media activity. Last we spoke you were quite excited, but apprehensive as to how it would be received. How has it gone – any revelations?

RB We like to give a little more information about how we operate. It’s the actual inspectors who communicate. It’s not a PR company. They are genuine tweets and I am delighted you think it works and we have the balance right, as it’s not easy as we can’t tweet directly after a visit as people will be able to work out who we were, and we also won’t name and shame, so it’s a learning curve for us too. We aim to capture the full experience, and communicate the fun aspect of what we do. Restaurants should be fun, we are in the hospitality industry.

One thing we have noticed is a lot of chefs tweeting during full service so we do ask the question as to where they are finding the time when they should be focusing on the dishes and the customers!

JD What trends in this years Stars have stood out compared to last year?

RB Certainly the new Stars have been diverse. From Veeraswamy Indian Restaurant in London who achieved their fist star after 90 years and of course The Ritz under the tenure of Chef John Williams. Further afield areas like Cumbria who have continued to impress our inspectors with awards going to Gilpin Lodge and Kevin Tickle’s Forest Side and Lake House in Cumbria who earned their first stars. So that region is becoming a go to place. Young chefs too have been impressive, focusing on the flavours and maintaining their consistency. Chef James Close of ‘Raby Hunt’ Restaurant near Darlington in the North east certainly put that area on the culinary map with his two Star award. We were delighted. He is certainly one to watch. The likes of Raymond Blanc who is very supportive of young chefs and as you say was delighted that some of his young recruits achieved their first Star. We too were delighted he came to support them and us alongside Jason Atherton, Simon Rogan and also Heston Blumenthal who re-established his three stars for the Fat Duck, following his refurbishment last year, just missing the guide.

JD Has BREXIT affected any aspects of this years’ guide such as exchange rates since the pound dropped, where some venues buying produce from Eurozone such as the Paris markets compared to others locally with British Produce. Has this affected the price of Bib Gourmands? {£28 for 3 courses & glass of wine on Sat night}

RB Not dramatically that we have yet seen. The Bib is in its 20th year and we have increased the number, especially in London which communicated increasing value. We aim to retain the £28 limit as we haven’t had such feedback as we now visit Bib Gourmand venues every 18 months, so maybe it’s not filtered through yet.

JD Other trends such as pop up restaurants and the move away from tasting menus, are these welcomed?

RB Trends by nature come and go. The consumer is welcoming more flexibility in menus and even the Fat Duck varies their middle courses to add variety. People in the UK like to dine out more often, so they don’t necessarily want the same menus and experience every time. Pop ups continue and certainly help the young chefs find their feet which is important. It’s all about added value and improving the customer experience.

JD Well we will continue to watch during this year to see who may be next years risers and fallers, but no doubt we will be surprised either way with your announcements at next years awards, maybe somewhere North this time?

RB. Thank you so much for your support. We too are excited with the following year, and our inspectors have already started to visit across the Uk and Ireland, but just not today, we thought that would be unfair to the Chefs!

greatest-british-gourmet-experiences-card

Interview by James Day,
Founder Gourmet-Lifestyle (c) 2016

More information on GrEATest BRITISH GourmetXperiences HERE 

Official Michelin Press Release and where to buy your copy here

Michelin Launch 2017 Guide Savoy Centre London

Michelin Launch 2017 Guide Savoy Centre London

Michelin Launch 2017 Guide Savoy Centre London

Michelin Launch 2017 Guide Savoy Centre London. Sponsor Veuve Clicquot

Chefs Tom Kerridge with Raymond Blanc MBE

Chefs Tom Kerridge with Raymond Blanc MBE

Michelin Launch 2017 Guide Savoy Centre London