No fewer than seventeen restaurants received a star for the first time today. Considerably more than last year (ten), and the year before (eight). For many chefs, a Michelin star is the ultimate recognition of years of hard work, and it guarantees fully booked evenings. But it also creates the necessary pressure, say chefs who previously received a star.
“Initially, it’s a recognition of what you’ve been doing all these years,” says Hans Kinkartz. His restaurant, Atelier in Gulpen, had been tipped for a star for ten years, but it never happened. “Put that star where the sun doesn’t shine”, he said after the umpteenth disappointment.
But last year was the day: the first star. Kinkartz sees only advantages. “It puts you on the map, you are recognized by colleagues and you no longer have to worry about turnover or reservations.”
His guests used to be mainly people from the Gulpen region, but now people from all over the Netherlands eat in his restaurant. He also receives guests from Belgium and Germany. “We used to be full on weekends one to two weeks in advance, but that was two months in advance last year.”
Fried chicken on the menu
Some chefs also see disadvantages of the recognition. For example, Frederick Dhooge van ‘t Huis van Lede in Belgium gave back his stars a few years ago. If he felt like it, he also wanted to be able to put fried chicken on the menu, without worrying whether it was Michelin-level.
In 1999, the British Marco Pierre White was the first chef to return his three stars. “The people who gave me the stars had less knowledge than I did,” he said at the time. “It was easy for me to walk away. They were of no value to me.”
The fear of losing awarded stars can also cause the necessary pressure, as they know at Château Neercanne in Maastricht. The restaurant had a Michelin star for more than thirty years, until it was taken away in 2018. But today the star returned.
“We had a goal with the whole team: getting the star back, that was our challenge,” says chef Robert Levels. “The fact that we now have a star again is a crowning achievement for our work. And we don’t want to let that be taken away from us. Pressure is falling away, pressure is being added.”
‘We are being watched’
Bas van Kranen can let go of that pressure well, he says. With his restaurant Flore in Amsterdam last year, the chef received two Michelin stars and a green star, the star that rewards leaders in the field of sustainability. “We knew that we had had four or five visits. That creates a certain tension: ‘we are being watched’.”
But when they opened in 2021, a “healthy kitchen” was their biggest goal, he says. “Without thinking about any Michelin stars we might get.”
He advises the chefs who are entering their first year as star chefs today to “just keep doing what they’re already doing”. “Chefs can become insecure, you start comparing yourself to a certain group, and that gives you the idea that you have to do the same as them.”
But a star does not mean that you suddenly have to put “caviar and langoustine” on the menu, says the chef. “Cobbler, stick to your last.” You can also earn a star with a celeriac, he knows. “It’s what you do with it that matters.”
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