Cast our minds back to a mere five years ago, and Cork, Ireland’s self-proclaimed capital of food culture, had all the elements of a place where incredible produce and exciting dining was all around, but none of the accolades.
It had seemed as though Cork’s swift dance with the (still) much-respected opinion of Michelin inspectors had ended with Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House and Declan Ryan of Arbutus Lodge – late seventies to early 90’s. Since then, not much at all.
But then in 2018, a duo of stars landed into two tiny villages in West Cork, and one in Cork city: the since-gone Mews in Baltimore, The Chestnut in Ballydehob and Ichigo Ichie in Cork city. 2020, and Bastion in Kinsale got their first star; and in 2021, after Ahmet Dede had parted company with Mews and started a new project, Dede, in Baltimore, the rebel county was on a high with four restaurants each with a star, holding onto them successfully during two years of tough trading.
Whether you agree with Michelin or not, and there are plenty of rumblings and vexed wringing of hands about it, the guide represents an international language of culinary excellence recognised everywhere, all at once.
Last night at the Michelin star awards 2023, a new star was awarded to a Cork restaurant, with another Michelin star restaurant in Cork collecting a second.
What does it do for a sleepy village like Baltimore when Dede won and kept a hold of their star? It means a plethora of innovative chefs and foodie creatives flocking there with their own ideas for great food, whether that’s from a food truck, a tiny restaurant or a summer season of brilliant pop ups. With that comes people willing and happy to spend their hard-earned cash dining out, shopping the boutiques and staying in a B&B or nearby hotel. It means everyone gets a piece of the action.
From the quiet calmness of its opening in September last, Terre, located at Castlemartyr, was hotly tipped for a Michelin nod. Chef patron, Vincent Crépel, had ambition but also form, gaining the vaunted accolades in previous restaurant enterprises. Just six months after that opening, it receives it’s first star. One of twenty new one-star awards bestowed this year, the only one for Ireland and it comes to Cork.
Crépel’s cooking is as delicious and beautiful as it is precise and controlled. Whereas the accolades in the past have been bestowed on restaurants in Cork fervently championing locality of produce, Terre’s ethos is simply about the best: being the best, cooking the best, using the best – wherever in the world it may come from.
One star is “awarded to restaurants using top quality ingredients, where dishes with distinct flavours are prepared to a consistently high standard.” What makes Terre stand out is in the service it provides, designed specifically to elevate the diner’s experience. If the food is worthy of a single star here, the service could easily be on track for a second star, but that’s for another year.
Without a doubt, the most emotional moment of the night was Ahmet Dede who scooped his second star for Dede in Baltimore. Two stars are awarded when “the personality and talent of the chef are evident in their expertly crafted dishes; their food is refined and inspired.” I had heard rumours of two stars coming to Cork this year, but did we dare it to be true? It seems Ahmet dared to dream, dared to hope and finally, after so much dedication, his talent and skill as a chef has been recognised with a second star, (the third of his career).
Taking to the stage to receive his award, Dede gave an emotional speech: “It’s been the longest five months, my parents are watching this right now,” Dede said of his mother and father back in Turkey.
Dede describes his cuisine as Turkish-Irish fusion, combining his love of flavours and ingredients of his Turkish homeland with the vibrant and world-class produce of his West Cork home. His food is full of passion, bold flavours delivered with elegance, and unmistakably his personality on a very elegant plate.
No new three-star restaurants were awarded this year, but all those awarded in 2022 did retain theirs. Across the awards, there was a strong London-based theme, showing that this is still the centre of the gastronomic world as far as these isles are concerned. But Ireland, and particularly Cork, only continues to enhance its reputation for great food as it continues to collect its Michelin accolades year on year.
With Terre a new one-star and Dede enhancing his achievements with two stars, Cork is very hot right now for gastronomy, especially as Ichigo Ichie, The Chestnut and Bastion all retain their one-star awards.
Coupled with the region’s Bib Gourmand awards announced last week: St Francis Provisions, Kinsale this year joining Goldie, Cork city, and Cush, Ballycotton, Cork is turning into one tasty spot for exceptional dining