Last Monday, Ireland received three new Michelin stars, and 13 stars were retained, bringing the total for the island to an all-time high of 16.
Our editor, Dee Laffan, attended the ceremony and took reactions from inside the BFI IMAX Cinema after the stars for the Michelin Guide GB & Ireland 2019 were given. Here's what a selection had to say...
Takashi Miyazaki, Ichigo Ichie, Cork City
“I am very happy. I wasn’t going for a Michelin star, but once I got the inspector and he was so excited about it, then I decided I must go for it. Still keeping my style, my concept and flavour; that’s the most important thing is to focus on that, in everything we do. I have always said that this is my mission, to create real Japanese food and flavours. If you do it right it is going to be great.
It’s really hard to get great staff, but the staff I do have share the same passion as me. That’s why we can go forward more. It’s hard especially as a new restaurant to get that and we have it.
And I believe in myself now, with this award.”
“It’s really special. This is a lifetime coming; we’ve worked so hard. It is so fantastic that Michelin is the standard we’ve gotten to. He wanted to focus on his food and what he wanted to do and didn’t want to be sidetracked by awards. I know he was focusing on making really amazing Japanese food that Irish people will like. This is like a lovely pat on the back for all the hours he’s put into it and he’s put so much work into it because he is a perfectionist. Michelin is such a respected award, it’s like they’re saying to him that, ‘you’re doing a good thing here’ and that means so much. He can hear it from his customers and family, but until he heard it from them he didn’t believe it himself. Now he does.”
Rob Krawczyk, Restaurant Chestnut, Ballydehob
"I am so happy. I just want to say a huge thanks to Elaine [Fleming], to achieve a star after six months being open is beyond amazing – a dream come true – it is with all her hard work, support and determination that made it possible to do, and will continue to do."
Elaine Fleming, Restaurant Chestnut, Ballydehob
“It’s a surreal and incredible moment. We have put so much into creating our restaurant and got so immersed in it that we didn’t really get to look outside of it. Once we opened the doors and we got to hear what people thought and the responses to what we created and the food then it’s just been amazing. We’ve been so thrilled to hear people’s reactions, to hear that you’ve had an effect on them and they’ve had an emotional reaction to the experience of coming to dine with you, it’s been really touching. And then to see everything accumulate into today, it has just been amazing to have this recognition. For a little restaurant that seats 18 in the middle of west Cork, five hours from Dublin, to have it recognised by Michelin, is incredible. It’s unbelievable. It also highlights that regardless of how big or small you are, you can really make your mark.”
Robert Collender, Mews Restaurant, Baltimore
“I feel fantastic. We were expecting it to some extent. It was our goal for this year. We set out our project each year and each year is an individual project with goals. It is lovely to achieve your goal, but you never really believe it until you see it in writing. Ahmet joined us two seasons ago, Remi as well, and once they arrived with us we set about building to this standard. We always had it in our sights. We were really hoping for it this year."
On the three stars going to Cork…
"It’s unbelievable really. I remember speaking to the first inspector who came through and he was speaking about Cork so positively that I got a feeling that there was going to be another, but to have three in one is amazing for Cork! I am from Dublin but four years living here in Cork, it's my home now. I am about to have a West Cork baby too, so I love it!”
Ahmet Dede, Mews Restaurant, Baltimore
“I feel amazing, great and happy. I am not surprised really, I knew it would happen. That was the purpose of me moving to Mews and it was our aim. Before I took the job, I went to visit the place; I looked at the restaurant, the kitchen, the place and I said to myself, 'I can do this here'. We knew it wouldn’t happen in the first year, but I said I will deliver it in the second one, and I have. It’s not because of me as a chef, it’s because of the people that support me when I told them I wanted a star. They made it happen in the kitchen. That’s why I was so confident, based on the people.
In 3-5 years time, Ireland will be the leading gastronomic country in Europe. When you see people like Fingal Ferguson, Sally Barnes, Vincent Collins, Monica Gonzales, and all the people who are foraging there… you get the best of the best and we use the best for our menu. You don’t need foie gras, truffles and caviar, just the best of Irish. People believe you have to have expensive ingredients, but in Ireland you can have something from the cliff that is as good as caviar.
Gordon [Ramsay] whispered to me that my speech was the best speech so far. It was a nice moment and one that will stay with me for a long time.”
Read more Q&A with Ahmet Dede, Mews Restaurant
Damien Grey, Heron & Grey, Blackrock
“I’m not surprised at all. I just did a pop-up down there with the guys from Mews. I always knew there was good produce and something magic was happening down there, but when I got there I was blown away. It’s another level. I am absolutely chuffed for the guys. The biggest thing is they are all honest, humble folk just doing what they love best. It’s absolutely amazing.
I feel like I’ve just won a star for the first time, I am that happy for them! It brings it all back. We were talking to the lads earlier on and they asked us what is it like, and I just said, 'make sure your phone is charged because it is going to mental'. It just doesn’t stop.
It’s fantastic for Ireland. We are charging ahead and I am really hoping that in five years time we are the San Sebastian of the world because there is no reason why we can’t be. This just proved it today with the trifecta win in the stars.”
Enda McEvoy, Loam, Galway City
“I’m not surprised at all. I was down in West Cork doing a pop-up with Robbie [Krawczyk] a few weeks ago and I met the guys from Mews too. Everyone is so into what they are doing, they are really fantastic craftsmen and they are using fantastic produce. I am really made up for them! It’s amazing for Cork too. Going back, Arbutus Lodge in Cork was the first Michelin star in Ireland. These new ones will breathe a new lease of life into Cork and also it is great because it is a good spread of the whole country with stars now, from Belfast to Cork to Galway to Dublin."
JP McMahon, Aniar, Galway City
“I think it’s a great day for Cork. I think it’s been coming for a while and the momentum is there. But I do want to push on and say, what’s next? If we look at different counties, I think it will encourage people from Dingle to Donegal to open smaller restaurants and realise they can achieve this. That’s what we’re seeing today, really passionate chefs who have gone out and opened their own establishments and achieved the highest accolades.”
Stephen Toman, OX, Belfast
“I think it’s brilliant for Ireland as a whole, especially for the young chefs and their thoughts about Michelin. They will sit up and think about Michelin, bringing attention to it and what it’s all about and them wanting to work at that level. It’s very good. If the restaurant isn’t good enough, they won’t get it. The restaurants who received it today are definitely worthy of it, so it’s a credit to them.
We kept ours and I’m delighted with that. We’re flying, busy as ever. Ireland is just getting stronger and stronger as a culinary destination so it’s good for everybody.”