Derry Clarke backs Chapter One to become Ireland's first ‘3 Michelin star’ restaurant

Celebrity chef made the prediction ahead of the food guide’s awards on Monday

Paul Hyland

Celebrity chef Derry Clarke has backed Dublin’s Chapter One to become the first Irish restaurant to get three Michelin stars when the awards are announced on Monday.

Mr Clarke and his wife Sallyanne ran L’Ecrivain – a Baggot Street institution – for 31 years until they sold the premises in 2020. L’Ecrivain earned one Michelin star in 2003 and retained the honour until it closed.

Mr Clarke, who is the culinary director of new venture – The Club at Goffs, in Kill, Co Kildare – said earning the highly sought-after star was transformative for L’Ecrivain but it also brought relentless pressure.

“We didn’t expect to get it – that’s usually the case anyway,” he told the Irish Independent.

“I said to myself, ‘Wow, now we’ve got pressure’. I knew instantly, yes, it was great getting it but keeping it was going to be the problem and that was the ambition, keeping it every year.”

Mr Clarke said it took a team of 18 chefs working in concert with the front-of-house staff to maintain the high standards.

The “big difference” the one star brought was a flood of overseas visitors who would travel to Dublin with the guide in hand, for the L’Ecrivain experience, Mr Clarke said. He was told by Michelin he had one of the busiest one-star restaurants in Europe at the time.

However, “people expected more, and definitely the expectations went up, but it was good and we could deliver it. But definitely the pressure is what I remember about that time,” he added.

Mr Clarke said having a Michelin star attracts the best staff and more customers, but losing a star can be terminal for a restaurant.

“If you get a star, you get a small column [in the paper], if you lose it you’re on the front page,” he said.

The chef also said Michelin was “always good” to him and he has “no regrets” about the years dedicated to meeting the competition’s demands.

“I’d like to say to all the restaurants getting awards or losing awards, best of luck to them because it is pressure,” he added.

“My bet would be Chapter One’s Mickael [Viljanen] will get a third star. I admire chefs going for two stars or three stars because the work that goes into it is immense.

“I ate there [Chapter One] recently, and it was just on a different level completely.”

Mr Clarke said the Club at Goffs serves food made from locally sourced ingredients and his key aim now is for his customers to “come in an enjoy themselves”.

He was also highly complimentary of Galway-based chef JP McMahon whose restaurant, Aniar, has retained one Michelin star since 2012.

Mr McMahon said his drive is as strong as ever and admitted he and his team “would love to get a second star”.

“I think that’s how we apply ourselves in the direction we think we need to go, but there’s no roadmap: you just have to keep on refining the experience and put out the best food possible,” Mr McMahon said.

“Hopefully then you’ll make the grade.”

Mr McMahon said the staff at Aniar had initially been “shocked” to learn they had earned a star.

While his team was serving “quite elevated” dishes, he felt the style of the business was less refined than what he assumed necessary for Michelin.

All the dishes prepared at Aniar are created with west of Ireland ingredients and Mr McMahon feels this ethos played a big part in earning the award, as well as “being in the right place, at the right time”.

Like Derry Clarke, Mr McMahon likened the overnight demand for tables at his Dominick Street restaurant to an “avalanche”, and he said keeping the star became the number one priority.

“To get it and not know you were going to get it was a fantastic thing – to lose it would be catastrophic for the business,” he said. “In a Michelin-star restaurant, every night is the cup final. You have to win. You have to be ready with everything. Every time you open the door at 5pm in Aniar, everything has to be perfect.”

Mr McMahon said this is a “nervous” time of year for him and his peers and there is “always a fear” that the unimaginable could happen. “Good luck” text messages are commonly exchanged in the days leading up to the publication of the guide, followed “hopefully” by relief.

Mr McMahon said he can understand why some chefs choose to step back from the relentless drive needed to keep the star but he has not lost the necessary passion yet.

“Hopefully I don’t wake up some morning and lose it. At the moment I would love to get a second star,” he added.

The Great Britain and Ireland Michelin awards will be announced in London on Monday afternoon.