Rebel Michelin stars a boost to Cork food sector

Rebel Michelin stars a boost to Cork food sector
Chef proprietor, Takashi Miyazaki, pictured with team in his Michelin starred restaurant Ichigo Ichie, on Fenn's Quay. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

IT SEEMS that for Cork, Michelin stars are like buses: you spend ages waiting for one and then three come along at once.

Liam Edwards, President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) described the announcement of stars for three Rebel restaurants as ‘the greatest day ever for Cork hospitality’.

“I am blown away by it to be completely honest,” he told the Evening Echo. “As a proud Corkonian I think it is absolutely brilliant.”

The owners of Ichgo Ichie on Fenn’s Quay, the seasonal Mews Restaurant in Baltimore and Restaurant Chestnut in Ballydehob were letting their new status as Michelin star restaurants sink in yesterday, as bookings poured in as soon as the news broke. They were the only new Irish restaurants added to the list this year.

“I get all the reservations to my phone and even throughout the ceremony it was buzzing away, so the reaction is huge,” Robert Collender from the Mews said.

“It is wonderful to see so much interest in it and the fact that there were three restaurants from Cork is even better.”

Cork chefs Ahmet Dede, Takashi Miyazaki and Rob Krawczyk in London for the announcement of the Michelin awards.
Cork chefs Ahmet Dede, Takashi Miyazaki and Rob Krawczyk in London for the announcement of the Michelin awards.

Takashi Miyazaki of Ichigo Ichie was back at his restaurant counter by Tuesday evening, having flown back from London, where the winners were announced on Monday night.

“I still don’t even feel like I got the star,” he said. “I have been so busy between press and bookings and phone calls. It is only now I am back here in the restaurant that I realise now I have to keep it!”

Mr Miyazaki said he had not been thinking about the star when he opened his high-concept restaurant less than a year ago but once the judges visited and he held conversations about it: “I knew, oh I really want to get that.”

For Mr Collender, the announcement was the culmination of a long-held dream.

“We are absolutely delighted, it has been an ambition for a long time and we are really happy to have achieved it,” he said. “As you are coming up through the ranks it is something you are thinking about a target, but then as you open a restaurant and bring a chef like Ahmet [Dede], it becomes realistic. We felt this year it was a realistic target to have and we’re happy that it has gone the right way!”

He praised his hardworking team but added that their location in West Cork is also a major factor.

“We moved from Dublin to west Cork because of the incredible produce and ingredients, and the culture of food that exists here,” he said. “Our team has worked so hard for this but you have to give credit to the people of West Cork too. Not only as customers but as our suppliers. The quality of the produce is extraordinary, it is absolutely world class.

“I deal with about 50 people directly - farmers, fishermen, foragers, all these people. We are a seasonal restaurant but they work so hard for us all year round and support us so much.”

Mr Edwards said the news would lift the whole region.

“It is great for west Cork and for rural Ireland,” he said. “I think it was very uplifting news for a lot of restaurateurs. It proves you don’t have to be in a big city, if you are doing the right things and have the cooking skills, customers will come.”

For Chestnut’s Rob Krawczyk the Michelin star was unexpected but much appreciated.

“We were thrilled, it was a bit of a shock but it’s amazing,” he said. “We just wanted to open a small restaurant and cook really good food and this is a huge bonus, it is fantastic. We have only been open six months, it is a great honour to get.”

Cork also featured in the Michelin Guide’s bib Gourmand category, which highlights restaurants which offer good quality, good value cooking. 24 restaurants throughout the country were awarded the designation, two of which are in Cork.

Dillon’s Restaurant in Timoleague received the award for the first time this year, while Bastion in Kinsale retained it.

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