Irish TV chef Paul Flynn has revealed why he decided to turn his back on chasing Michelin stars.
Flynn, chef and owner of The Tannery Restaurant in Waterford, worked in a London restaurant which had two Michelin stars for ten years.
After living in the “Michelin star funnel” of chasing yet another Michelin star for a decade, Flynn said he decided to leave it all behind.
“Most chefs are obsessed with the Michelin guide. When I was younger, I was a head chef of a two-star restaurant in London that eventually got three stars and I saw how it can take over your life and it becomes more than a passion.”
“I have mixed emotions about [Michelin]. But yet, like every other chef that I know in Ireland, in my own little way I’m obsessed with it. But then I suppose for ten years of my life I was working at this level in London. Every day you wake up, we had two stars, you want to try for three.”
“In a way it made no sense, every single waking moment was that. It’s like being a funnel in that it’s the only thing that’s important to you. And then, all of a sudden, you step out of that funnel and you see that, oh, maybe I will go fishing.”
Flynn, who spoke on the Irish Independent Talks stage at the National Ploughing Championships today, said obsessing over a Michelin star can be torturous. He added that if a chef loses a Michelin star, they don’t receive any feedback from the guide as to why.
“I think sometimes it can be a torture and it can transform your life for the better in terms of bringing you new business. But also if you lose it, you can really damage your business.”
“I’m a friend of Kevin Thornton’s. My heart goes out to him. What I think about this is that, can you get up and say ‘I’m going to go back in there and do 15 hour days’ and can you have the strength to look at yourself and say, ‘why did they take it away?’, because they won’t tell you.”
“This is the difficult thing about the Michelin guide. You can’t phone them up and say ‘where did I go wrong?’, they simply won’t tell you so you have to figure it all out by yourself.”
“I just hope Kevin’s restaurant continues to thrive and be successful because we all respect him.”
Flynn has never looked back since he decided to shift his focus back to simple food, he said.
“I wanted my own life to change in a way that I got back to my roots in terms of just doing really, really simple food. I think that it’s essentially a really good thing.”
“I don’t think you should live your life by it, and I think that it can absolutely dominate people’s thoughts from day one. The most important thing you can ever do is have your family, and food should be a joy and not a torture.”
However, he said Michelin-starred restaurants are a great boost to tourism in Ireland.
“When people come to Ireland, they see these restaurants in New York and London, and we want them to know that we’re every bit as good so we need these people forging ahead on our behalf.”
“The overall conclusion you can draw is that we’re going to be very hard to beat. I’m not sure that we have what it takes to go the whole way, that might evolve as we go along. I’d like to think but we are going to be very hard to beat. That’s one thing with what Joe Schmidt does on the field.”