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UK Michelin Ratings for 2008


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lets all burn our michelin guides!

That would involve buying it in the first place!

Or getting banned from Waterstones...

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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The latest Michelin guide is still big news in Ireland.

Kevin Thornton, head chef in Thornton’s, publicly rubbished the guide in the Sunday Independent, saying now all you need is a publicity campaign to get a star and singled out Dylan McGrath of Mint as being unworthy.

"Dylan contacts them and tells them he is making a documentary about getting a star and he gets a star," says Thornton.

Thornton believes that the Michelin awards have changed drastically since he landed a second star in 2001 then went on to lose one at his city centre eaterie.

"The whole Michelin thing is changing. They go on the radio now to publicise themselves and that never happened before. They award three stars at a time now rather than have a restaurant work its way towards that.

"They have to make money and they have become very commercial. The fact is that you can organise a campaign now to get a star and I don't like that," he says.

A bit bizarre considering Thornton’s media profile has been much higher than McGrath’s over the past year. Thornton goes on to say that he doesn’t like McGrath’s food, as if this is enough reason for Michelin to ignore him.

Dylan McGrath, for his part, seems determined to lose friends and alienate people. There was a big spat on a TV chat show when McGrath, Thornton and Kevin Dundon walked out like the latest crop of three tenors and McGrath (the least TV savvy of the three) did himself no favours by coming across as completely arrogant and charmless, saying that he got the star because he deserved it and leaving out all the usual humble begging and scraping that plays out so well on TV. The documentary on him airs tonight.

Oliver Dunne of Bon Appetit is quite sensibly keeping his head down in his elegant McMichelin restaurant in Malahide, although he did disingenuously comment that Mint getting a star was an added bonus for him (he worked there before McGrath), and it was like getting one and a half stars.

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The chat show clip is still on the site, but for some reason, there doesn't seem to be a 'play' button at the moment. In case it changes, here's the link:

http://www.rte.ie/tv/tubridytonight/

It's under the following heading:

Dylan McGrath, Kevin Thornton & Kevin Dundon

It was spatulas at dawn in one of Tubridy Tonight's most heated interviews to date. Three of Ireland's top celebrity chefs exchanged some serious words about the best approach in the kitchen

For the record, former bad boy Kevin Thornton is an absolute angel in this interview and doesn't get involved at all when things get heated, so completely at odds with the Sunday Indo piece.

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The latest Michelin guide is still big news in Ireland.

Kevin Thornton, head chef in Thornton’s, publicly rubbished the guide in the Sunday Independent, saying now all you need is a publicity campaign to get a star and singled out Dylan McGrath of Mint as being unworthy.

"Dylan contacts them and tells them he is making a documentary about getting a star and he gets a star," says Thornton.

Thornton believes that the Michelin awards have changed drastically since he landed a second star in 2001 then went on to lose one at his city centre eaterie.

"The whole Michelin thing is changing. They go on the radio now to publicise themselves and that never happened before. They award three stars at a time now rather than have a restaurant work its way towards that.

"They have to make money and they have become very commercial. The fact is that you can organise a campaign now to get a star and I don't like that," he says.

A bit bizarre considering Thornton’s media profile has been much higher than McGrath’s over the past year. Thornton goes on to say that he doesn’t like McGrath’s food, as if this is enough reason for Michelin to ignore him.

Dylan McGrath, for his part, seems determined to lose friends and alienate people. There was a big spat on a TV chat show when McGrath, Thornton and Kevin Dundon walked out like the latest crop of three tenors and McGrath (the least TV savvy of the three) did himself no favours by coming across as completely arrogant and charmless, saying that he got the star because he deserved it and leaving out all the usual humble begging and scraping that plays out so well on TV. The documentary on him airs tonight.

Oliver Dunne of Bon Appetit is quite sensibly keeping his head down in his elegant McMichelin restaurant in Malahide, although he did disingenuously comment that Mint getting a star was an added bonus for him (he worked there before McGrath), and it was like getting one and a half stars.

Even if it is all for PR, it's embarrassing to watch. McGrath may have had justification for feeling pissed off with Dunne, Thorton and Lewis all questioning his star. It is also dissappointing giving the huge support Chapter One got from the public in general prior to and after recieving their star and the support Thorton has been getting throughout various hiccups and problems in the past few years. The begrudgery of the Irish is unrelenting.

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He's probably talking about the new area guides Michelin has done recently; NY, California, Tokyo etc.

I wasn't around when Michelin first started restaurant guides. I wonder how they handled the stars during the first ever year of rating in Paris, France and the UK?

Perhaps you can tell us Gary :raz:

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I just watched the documentary about Dylan McGrath and Mint. He came across as a joyless sociopathic monomaniac.

I ate in his restaurant once and felt positively bullied by the food.

The flavours were good, the technique was flawless, the produce excellent, but overall the food was joyless; more designed than felt; as if from Marinetti's Futurist cookbook.

Having seen the grim interior of his kitchen on the documentary, I am not sure I could bring myself to go back. I don't want to have to eat a meal while trying to ignore how much negativity went into plating it.

Edited by sidoyle (log)
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He's probably talking about the new area guides Michelin has done recently; NY, California, Tokyo etc.

I wasn't around when Michelin first started restaurant guides. I wonder how they handled the stars during the first ever year of rating in Paris, France and the UK?

Perhaps you can tell us Gary :raz:

1) good point

2) cheeky f'er

you don't win friends with salad

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The chat show clip is still on the site, but for some reason, there doesn't seem to be a 'play' button at the moment.

It's still available here I think.

I seem to be one of the few that thinks Dundon came across as a prick, by playing up to the audience on an obviously difficult issue for McGrath. Thornton's response both at the time and in print is somewhat unfair given the lashing he received over the "No Experience Required" programme, not to mention chip-gate. I am of course biased as I think Mint is a fabulous restaurant doing something genuinely good, as opposed to Dundon doing nice food for the masses that (in my experience at least) tastes like it's been under the lamp too long. Of course, I do like Thornton's grub. Anyway...

The begrudgery of the Irish is unrelenting.

Indeed, and McGrath has garnered this reaction from day 1. Whether McGrath is arrogant or not is pretty much irrelevant to me, but lots of people seem to want to take a pop at him, chefs included. I think the old "it's a long way from this kind of fancy food we were brought up" is alive and well here. In Celtic Tiger Ireland spending huge sums of money on dinner is okay, just as long as it's steak and chips.

sidoyle, I must admit I respectfully disagree with your comments overall, and I certainly wouldn't call the food joyless. There are plenty of other well-regarded restaurants in town that fit the bill there, but Mint isn't one of them IMO.

Edited by Simon_S (log)
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I just watched the documentary about Dylan McGrath and Mint. He came across as a joyless sociopathic monomaniac.

I ate in his restaurant once and felt positively bullied by the food.

The flavours were good, the technique was flawless, the produce excellent, but overall the food was joyless; more designed than felt; as if from Marinetti's Futurist cookbook.

Having seen the grim interior of his kitchen on the documentary, I am not sure I could bring myself to go back. I don't want to have to eat a meal while trying to ignore how much negativity went into plating it.

Hi sidoyle, I got a different read on the documentary.

Maybe it was against the backdrop of all the Dylan the Devil media coverage to date, but I thought he came across very well. Very much as himself. Yes, a totally driven lunatic in the kitchen, but basically a nice guy. He was clearly nervous on the Tubridy show. He’s very direct and focused, and this does come across as arrogance some times, particularly in an interview situation. And yes Simon, I think Dundon played to the crowd, but they loved it. He is, after all, a celebrity chef.

On the begrudgery rumblings from other chefs about him getting a Michelin star too soon, augustine, I couldn’t agree more. What amazes me is how conveniently everyone forgets that Dylan McGrath had been head chef at Tom Aikens for years and was well known to the Michelin men. He has certainly served his time and proved his worth. And not only has he maintained the standards he learned, he has clearly found his own voice. He is constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries whilst maintaining consistency. Yes, I am biased, I adore his food. I think he is the best chef in Ireland and I applaud his dedication.

So, from my POV, Dylan McGrath being awarded a star ‘so quickly’ gives the Michelin Guide credibility.

BTW, nice cameo from the gastronomes, Hazel and Simon, on the documentary last night!

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I just watched the documentary about Dylan McGrath and Mint. He came across as a joyless sociopathic monomaniac.

I ate in his restaurant once and felt positively bullied by the food.

The flavours were good, the technique was flawless, the produce excellent, but overall the food was joyless; more designed than felt; as if from Marinetti's Futurist cookbook.

Having seen the grim interior of his kitchen on the documentary, I am not sure I could bring myself to go back. I don't want to have to eat a meal while trying to ignore how much negativity went into plating it.

With "good flavours", "flawless technique"and "excellent produce", what negativity are you referring to?

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The chat show clip is still on the site, but for some reason, there doesn't seem to be a 'play' button at the moment.

It's still available here I think.

I seem to be one of the few that thinks Dundon came across as a prick, by playing up to the audience on an obviously difficult issue for McGrath. Thornton's response both at the time and in print is somewhat unfair given the lashing he received over the "No Experience Required" programme, not to mention chip-gate. I am of course biased as I think Mint is a fabulous restaurant doing something genuinely good, as opposed to Dundon doing nice food for the masses that (in my experience at least) tastes like it's been under the lamp too long. Of course, I do like Thornton's grub. Anyway...

The begrudgery of the Irish is unrelenting.

Indeed, and McGrath has garnered this reaction from day 1. Whether McGrath is arrogant or not is pretty much irrelevant to me, but lots of people seem to want to take a pop at him, chefs included. I think the old "it's a long way from this kind of fancy food we were brought up" is alive and well here. In Celtic Tiger Ireland spending huge sums of money on dinner is okay, just as long as it's steak and chips.

sidoyle, I must admit I respectfully disagree with your comments overall, and I certainly wouldn't call the food joyless. There are plenty of other well-regarded restaurants in town that fit the bill there, but Mint isn't one of them IMO.

I agree with your comments about Dundon. He is a terrific prick. He was there to give the slot a recognisable face, that's it. McGraths PR advice is poor if he is receiving any. What the hell is he doing an Image column given that the editor proposed it as simply an alternative to the Thorton column in Gloss. I'm not sure he will see any benefit from it. I agree with something Corinna said earlier about Oliver Dunne. He was right to keep the head down.

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With "good flavours", "flawless technique"and "excellent produce", what negativity are you referring to?

The negativity I'm referring to is the negativity displayed by McGrath in the documentary; in and out of the kitchen, toward his staff and towards the world in general. I grew up in a restaurant, so I can't help but react in a negative way toward his management style.

Moreover, to my mind, this negativity manifests itself in the technically adventurous yet experientially vapid food which he creates; as well as in the stiff, ritualised front of house experience.

Food at this level is an aesthetic experience; and I'm criticising his food on aesthetic grounds; but at the same time I recognise that he's reached an aesthetic plane in his cooking.

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Oliver Dunne of Bon Appetit is quite sensibly keeping his head down in his elegant McMichelin restaurant in Malahide, although he did disingenuously comment that Mint getting a star was an added bonus for him (he worked there before McGrath), and it was like getting one and a half stars.

Corinna, you're some cynic. :biggrin:

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I guess it must be remembered that this was a documentary, with a certain slant, in which hundreds of hours of footage were shot, only to be compressed into the most interesting/view attracting/sensationalist/whatever 1 hour slot.

Nice guy/Mr. Understanding wouldn't attract the viewers.

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I was in New York for the past few days and visited one 2 * and 2 1* restaurants and I was shocked at just how poor the food at the 2 * was, especially compared to the other 2! The only way I could see that it got 2 *'s was because the cuisine was predominantly french, but other than the deserts and my main I don't think any of the food was worthy of 1 * let alone 2! I also wonder how a guide can be a standard across the world, when theres no way that the same inspectors can visit all the places in NYC/Tokyo/Europe etc???

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Oliver Dunne of Bon Appetit is quite sensibly keeping his head down in his elegant McMichelin restaurant in Malahide, although he did disingenuously comment that Mint getting a star was an added bonus for him (he worked there before McGrath), and it was like getting one and a half stars.

Corinna, you're some cynic. :biggrin:

Nothing wrong with playing it McSafe (much more commercially viable, and Oliver Dunne’s 3 course dinner menu for €67 is good value)… but if I’d only one vote, it would have to be for McMental. He’s streets ahead… a rare commodity.

McGraths PR advice is poor if he is receiving any.

I think he just uses agencies on an ad hoc basis, he doesn’t have the budget for a retainer. He certainly could do with a little bit of coaching if he wants to appear on chat shows.

Although… he probably wouldn’t listen

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With "good flavours", "flawless technique"and "excellent produce", what negativity are you referring to?

The negativity I'm referring to is the negativity displayed by McGrath in the documentary; in and out of the kitchen, toward his staff and towards the world in general. I grew up in a restaurant, so I can't help but react in a negative way toward his management style.

Moreover, to my mind, this negativity manifests itself in the technically adventurous yet experientially vapid food which he creates; as well as in the stiff, ritualised front of house experience.

Food at this level is an aesthetic experience; and I'm criticising his food on aesthetic grounds; but at the same time I recognise that he's reached an aesthetic plane in his cooking.

The negativity towards the rest of the world is little more than most have and certainly it wouldn't stop me eating in his restaurant, in the same way as I'm not going to stop reading Orwell because he had a few chips on his shoulder and

particularly as McGrath has had the courage to flesh it out in such a public manner.

The way he manages his staff is entirely appropriate and would reflect the general style of a lot of one and two michelin places, I can't speak personally about three michelin as I have never worked in one. Also I would say that it is no different, other than in language, than the atmosphere at the top firms of solictiors, accountant, bankers or as the story is told successful horse breeders, successful low budget airlines, the atelier of Karl Lagerfeld etc. Will you stop taking Ryanair flights because of the famously tense atmosphere of Dcotor Ryans Monday morning meetings? Staff don't thank you wasting their time with best practice policies if the management are sending them to the wrath of customers for selling them a poor product e.g. The Shelbourne.

I would agree with you about the FOH, but I think that has more to do with their youth. I think technically he could be more adventurous and hopefully he will get the support to take it to the next level.

You are not alone in your frustration. The IHF, RAI, IHI, Failte Ireland have all been on giving out but the truth is in terms of product we have been sold a pup for too long and these are the realities of the industry at this level.

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C'mon, spill it. What were the NYC restaurants?

I was going to leave it until later when i did a full write up but I'll do a quick rundown here...

Bouley was the 2*. I'd heard mixed reviews but it was the only 2/3* i could find where i could get a table and a jacket wasn't strictly necessary.

It started off badly with an amuse of lime jelly, roquefort ice cream and mandarin. The ice cream was, quite honestly, awful. I think it's the first time i've not been able to finish a dish of that size! Everyone at the table were in agreement that it really did not work. Next up I had a reasonable shrimp and cod broth which was nice but overseasoned and then rack of lamb, which was superbly cooked but didn't do a lot for me flavour wise. The issue was more around everyone elses dishes. The tuna sashimi was not particularly interesting and the duck and pig dishes were not particularly special either. The chocolate souffle was, however, spectacular as was the creme brulee, but overall the food didn't blow any of us away. On top of that, and probably the worst part, the service was just stiff and at times haphazard, waiters looking confused, dishes coming out to the wrong people etc. nothing major but you'd expect near perfection at a 2 * restaurant, wouldn't you? None of the staff seemed to have any particular inclination to engage in conversation with any of us either.

All this, and the restaurant wasn't that busy! In fairness, they did give us a couple of desserts for free after most of us were too full to eat a dessert, which is probably more to do with the portion sizes over there than anything because i'd hardly say the plates were licked clean!

Anyway, I'll try and wrap this up, but my experiences at WD-50 and Perry St, the latter being for lunch were far superior in terms of the food and in many ways the service. The dishes at WD-50 were exciting and fresh, some of the best food I'd ever eaten and some of the dishes at Perry St were also superb. We all left both places wondering how on earth Bouley was regarded by the michelin inspectors to be a step up from them!

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The NY reviews will be great to read over in the NY forum! :wink: So here's the question: having eaten at UK starred joints and these US starred joints, is there something afoot involving different standards across the pond?

I'll try to attempt some kind of writeup later!

I don't think anything is afoot, I'd say that both Perry St and WD-50 are up there with some of the best places I've been in the UK, but Bouley was just a big let down. Maybe it was just a bad night, these things happen I guess.

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The NY reviews will be great to read over in the NY forum! :wink: So here's the question: having eaten at UK starred joints and these US starred joints, is there something afoot involving different standards across the pond?

there's different standards across the english channel, never mind an ocean :laugh:

you don't win friends with salad

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