Chefs insist there's a fault in Michelin stars
Leading chefs say that Michelin guidebook inspectors are failing to recognise the rising quality of young Scottish culinary talent, with no new stars given to the country in this year’s awards.
Of the 20 new Michelin stars in the new edition of the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2017, published yesterday, none of them were for Scotland.
At a live event in London, attended by many top chefs, the host city received eight new stars.
Scotland retains 12 single Michelin starred restaurants with Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire remaining the only one to have two stars. Sangster’s in Elie, the 13th to have a star, has now closed.
Glasgow remains star-less for the 13th year running.
There was good news for Paul Leonard, head chef of the Isle of Eriska Hotel, which was the only Scottish restaurant to be included in the Guide’s new award for Restaurants which have retained one Michelin Star with a change of Head Chef. The 32 year old, who took over from Ross Stovold a year ago, declared himself “chuffed to bits”. “It’s been tough but this makes it all worthwhile,” he said.
Tom Kitchin’s Scran & Scallie gained a Bib Gourmand, awarded for “good quality, good value cooking”, taking Edinburgh one ahead of Glasgow, which retained its three Bibs, along two in the Scottish Borders and one in Argyll and Bute.
However, the three high-profile restaurants which lost stars last year – Castle Terrace in Edinburgh, Knockinaam Lodge in Portpatrick and Three Chimneys on Skye - failed to regain them.
Reacting to the news, Shirley Spear, owner of the Three Chimneys and chair of the Scottish Food Commission, said: “Some people are wondering if the Michelin inspectors have actually been in Scotland over the last year.
“Our new head chef Scott Davies didn’t expect to gain a Michelin star this year and we’re not particularly surprised at the result here at the Three Chimneys, but I am annoyed that Scotland appears to be so dull in the eyes of the international culinary world. In reality, there’s so much going on right now in the hands of some very talented, innovative young chefs. I’m disappointed that this hasn’t been more widely recognised.
“Some of the Scottish restaurants in the Michelin Guide have had their stars for a very long time. It would be nice to have seen some of the new ones getting some recognition to give them confidence in what they are doing.”
Tom Kitchin, chef-patron of the single-starred The Kitchin in Leith whose sister restaurant Castle Terrace lost its star last year, said: “Obviously I’m delighted to get a Bib for Scran & Scallie.
“But I’m surprised there has been no movement across the country and I think a lot of people will be disappointed too. There are restaurants in Scotland pushing for three stars, some pushing for two. But who are we to question the Michelin inspectors? We only work here day in, day out.
“We were all expecting something big this year with this glitzy live event. We were thinking, ‘maybe, just maybe, this will be Scotland’s big year’. But it wasn’t to be.
“So we keep our heads down and get on with it. What else can we do?”
"If I had to choose a restaurant deserving of a Michelin star in Glasgow, it would be The Gannet"
Andrew Fairlie, chef-patron of Scotland’s only two-star restaurant, agreed. He said: “I am surprised at this outcome. I did expect more upward movement in Scotland. There are a lot of disappointed people in the room today, some expecting three stars, some two, but there was no movement at all.
“I’ve had some amazing meals in Glasgow and I was really surprised that it wasn’t included in the Guide. If I had to choose a restaurant deserving of a Michelin Star in Glasgow, it would be The Gannet.”
Rebecca Burr , editor of the Michelin Guide, acknowledged there had been little change. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say the standard is going down in Scotland. We’re happy with the collection we have and I prefer to celebrate those restaurants that have managed to retain their accolades. It’s not always about new stars, it’s about the hard work involved in retaining stars,” she told me.
Asked why Glasgow had again failed to gain a star, she replied: “We hoped to make more of an even spread between Edinburgh and Glasgow so we could put this vexed subject to bed and move on, but Glasgow seems like it’s the same old story, with no new openings since last year. Chefs tell me there’s nowhere they want to eat out in Glasgow for really good food. I did hope that the Gannet’s Bib Gourmand would spur things on a bit, but it didn’t.
“I do think there’s room for a great deal of business in the city, and there should be more.
"But using fantastic Scottish produce does not necessarily mean a great menu. You have to invest in great chefs too.”
* This report first appeared in The Times