Michelin Guide 2017: an interview with the editor

Michelin Guide 2017: an interview with the editor

by Great British Chefs 7 October 2016

As this year’s Michelin stars were unveiled, we sat down with the Guide’s editor Rebecca Burr to talk food, her favourite places to eat and what’s in store for Britain’s restaurant scene.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Eighteen new one stars, a second for The Raby Hunt and The Fat Duck reclaimed its coveted three-star status – this year’s Michelin Guide reinforced the fact that the UK is one of the best places to eat in the world. At the star-studded unveiling of the results, the Guide’s anonymous editor Rebecca Burr sat down with us to talk about some of the new entries on the list.

It’s hard to pinpoint a formula for how a restaurant can become Michelin standard. Traditionally, the Guide was associated with classical restaurants, white tablecloths and silver service, but as this style of eating out becomes less and less popular, more casual establishments are making the grade – there’s even a street food stand in Singapore that now holds a coveted Michelin star. ‘The restaurants dictate the style to us,’ says Rebecca. ‘We’ve always been observers of what’s going on in the industry; we haven’t changed, the restaurants have. It was very natural for street food to be recognised in the Singapore Michelin Guide, but I don’t know if we’re there yet in the UK as many stalls are only temporary or pop-ups.

‘As far as stars go, they 100% refer to the food,’ she adds. ‘We’re not robots so we don’t ignore everything else that’s going on around us when we eat out, so we acknowledge things like the service, the music and the general feel of a place, but without doubt it’s the food that dictates the stars.’

The list of new one-starred restaurants this year was quite eclectic, including fine dining stalwarts like The Ritz Restaurant as well as smaller venues with a neighbourhood vibe – something Rebecca is very pleased to see in the Guide. ‘Places like Ellory and The Ninth are fantastic value for money, serving good food with nothing unnecessary or fancy on the plate,’ she says. ‘Cumbria has also had a fantastic year, with Nick Edgar over at The Samling retaining a star and both Gilpin and Forest Side winning one. For many years Cumbria was just sort of in the background and I think it’s brilliant that it’s coming to the fore because it’s ideal for people wanting to go off for a long weekend. We know stars have an effect on business, as over the years Yorkshire has become a county to go and dine in.

‘The same goes for Wales and it’s great that chefs like James Sommerin have gained a star. Heron and Grey in Dublin is also a really interesting one; it has such an individuality about it and dares to be different. The chef knows how to get flavours out of things like tomatoes that you never knew existed.’

As the only new two-starred restaurant for 2017, The Raby Hunt in Darlington was thrust into the culinary spotlight, finally gaining the nationwide recognition it deserves. ‘James Close at The Raby Hunt is an absolute talent,’ says Rebecca. ‘When he got his first star I thought there was something about him, his drive and determination made me sure he’d go far.’

Whether there was any risk of The Fat Duck regaining its three stars after its move to Melbourne last year we’re not sure, but its triumphant return means nothing but good things for the UK’s restaurant scene. ‘I think Heston Blumenthal is doing what he’s always done but more,’ says Rebecca. ‘The Fat Duck had no less than eight inspections since it reopened and reading the reports gives you a sense of how good it is. There are only around 100 three-starred restaurants in the world, so it really is right up there.’

The latest food trends are always what everyone wants to know, and while many are nothing more than a flash in the pan, Rebecca has noticed an emerging style of cooking that she thinks might become more prominent over the next twelve months. ‘We seem to have gone through every phase – Nordic, Japanese, a bit of Korean. I wonder what’s next. A lot more chefs are travelling all over the world to work but many are going back to the basics, serving more classical food. There’s a real respect for simplicity – places like Ellory are going down that path.’

Every year when the Michelin results are released, there’s plenty of speculation about which chefs are going to make the jump and add another star to their roster. When this doesn’t happen it’s hard to understand why, but it’s important to remember that the Michelin inspectors eat at so many restaurants, they have a better picture of what’s needed to progress. ‘There’s a lot of unfair pressure put on chefs to go from one to two stars or two to three,’ says Rebecca. ‘So many chefs are always waiting to make that transition, but a lot of time they just aren’t at that level. It can seem unfair but chefs can sometimes be in their own bubble and not realise what’s important or what’s needed to gain an extra star. You always have degrees within a star; one restaurant could only just be good enough and another is right at the top, on the cusp of winning another.’