Alain: The stars at the Waterside are for the team – the kitchen and front of house. I see the stars but I also see our customers as being more important. Without the customers I couldn’t cook or do anything. But for me, there’s no hiding. In other ways of cooking, there is a curtain in front of the dish and the service. It is kind of fake. If something is not cooked or seasoned properly in my cooking you can see it and taste it. And I think that is what defines good cooking. The three Michelin stars were at the Waterside before I arrived so I feel like they aren’t much to do with me.
When it comes to the star rating, people say one star is for cooking, two stars are for cooking and service and three stars are for consistency. In years gone by Michelin stars were about French style cooking and service but now things can be a bit more funky, modern and easy going. People want a journey when visiting a restaurant. Some work and some don’t. I love it, it’s a bit like cinema or theatre. You need those shows. In our world we like variety.
Andrew: My interpretation of Michelin is that I think there’s a lot of myth behind it and I don’t think that many people understand what Michelin is about. I think that the general public in the UK have only, in the last five years, started to understand Michelin stars and what that means.
In Michelin terms, generally one star is that you get inspected by a team of inspectors anonymously – generally you’ll get one official inspection a year where an inspector will come, eat and pay then bill and only then will they give a card and ask if the chef/owner is in as they want to have a discussion. I think nowadays there’s more dialogue with Michelin inspectors than there ever was before. If you’d asked an inspector ten years ago how was your meal, you’d get one word answers. There was no feedback. Now they engage a lot more with chefs which I think is a good thing. For a one star to progress two stars, for Michelin it’s all about consistency. They don’t want to award one star then have to take it back the next year, so they want to know that there is going to be consistency in the kitchen and service.