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Sunday 26 May 2019

Thornton sinks teeth into rival's Michelin star

Awards branded 'too commercial' a week after Dylan McGrath's Mint joins the exclusive club


Ireland's first chef to be awarded two coveted Michelin stars has criticised the world renowned guide for becoming too commercial.

Kevin Thornton says he believes that restaurants can now organise publicity campaigns to get a star rather than receive the award on merit.

His cutting comments come just a week after two Dublin restaurants, Mint in Ranelagh and Bon Appetit in Malahide, were awarded their first star.

Chef Dylan McGrath of Mint has made a documentary about his attempt to win the star which will be screened on RTE this week.

"Dylan contacts them and tells them he is making a documentary about getting a star and he gets a star," says Thornton.

Thornton believes that the Michelin awards have changed drastically since he landed a second star in 2001 then went on to lose one at his city centre eaterie.

"The whole Michelin thing is changing. They go on the radio now to publicise themselves and that never happened before. They award three stars at a time now rather than have a restaurant work its way towards that.

"They have to make money and they have become very commercial. The fact is that you can organise a campaign now to get a star and I don't like that," he says.

Thornton says too many chefs nowadays are working just to gain the star and are not consistent with their fare.

"You should work and do your thing and if you get a star then it's a bonus. You can't work for something like that. I don't work for stars, I work for myself. Anything I have got is because I deserve it and am consistent," he says.

"The most important thing is that you are yourself and you work for you and for your customers and that you are developing yourself all the time."

Thornton says he has eaten in Mint but was unimpressed. "It is not my type of food. Dylan is working his balls off and it is good for the city but it is not my cup of tea," he says.

Leading chef Kevin Dundon has already had a pop at Dylan McGrath over his Gordon Ramsay-style antics for the camera for his up-coming documentary, The Pressure Cooker, which will be shown tomorrow night.

The pair stunned viewers last weekend on Tubridy Tonight when a row erupted between them over McGrath's attitude to staff.

"Train the staff better and you won't have to shout at them!" quipped Dundon this week.

"I think Gordon Ramsay has a bit of charisma about himself as well and a huge amount of passion. To see what Dylan McGrath was actually doing in the kitchen was appalling and in this day and age there is no need for that sort of behaviour," he said.

"In fact, possibly, if he trained his staff better in the morning he might not have to shout at them during service."

Thornton agrees, saying although he is tough with his staff he is always constructive.

"I will give them a bollicking but there is no point in doing that if you are not going to pull in the team and show them what they did wrong.

"To me it (McGrath's rant) was a mess. There was no good energy and in that respect I thought it was very bad. People like that will not go very far," he said.

"You can blab your mouth but what is the point. It is a waste of energy if you don't help them to learn."

Dylan McGrath was not available for comment when he was contacted yesterday.

Thornton will appear on this week's Guerrilla Gourmet, preparing a meal on a budget for 28 people at the Rock of Cashel where he cooked up a feast of rabbit, scallops and sea urchins without a kitchen, electricity or staff. Guerrilla Gourmet is on Tuesday at 8.30pm on RTE One.

Meanwhile, Richard Corrigan has ended his two-year association with the Village at Lyons Estate.

The collaboration led to critical acclaim for the The Mill restaurant and Cafe Le Serre at the estate meticulously restored by Dr Tony Ryan who died late last year.

"It has been a hugely enjoyable experience for me. Tony lured me back to Ireland with a bull whip. He was a fantastic man. I look at my time learning from him as like doing an MBA. I miss him terribly."

Corrigan told the Sunday Independent that he intends to open a restaurant in Dublin city centre and there is speculation that he has had discussions with the owners of Browne's on St Stephen's Green.

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