Critic opens own restaurant – then wins a Michelin star
It's a perfect case of poacher turned gamekeeper. A food blogger who offered dining recommendations on his website has been awarded a coveted Michelin star barely a year after opening his first restaurant.
Mikael Jonsson, who published his reviews on gastroville.com, detailing his passion for freshly-sourced ingredients, won the accolade for Hedone, the Swedish restaurant he opened 14 months ago in an unfashionable part of Chiswick High Road in west London. It is the first professional kitchen he has ever worked in. Jonsson gave up his day job as a lawyer as word spread that Hedone was serving up something special. A A Gill, the hard-to-please Sunday Times restaurant critic, gave the establishment a double five-star review for food and atmosphere. It emerged that Michelin's inspectors had recognised Jonsson with a star when the 2013 ratings for UK restaurants were accidentally revealed on the guide's website, a week before their official publication was due.
Jonsson nurtured a passion for food while growing up in Sweden, training as a chef before becoming a lawyer. He maintained his blog while living in Monaco and Malta, evaluating restaurants and offering advice on sourcing often overlooked ingredients. When Hedone opened, Jonsson began blogging the trials and tribulations of running his own restaurant.
With a dinner menu starting at £50, Hedone won acclaim for dishes including a squab pigeon dish, roasted complete with an entire leg and claw, and Jonsson's use of foraged ingredients including sea aster. Jonsson said: "I am overwhelmed, utterly unable to digest it at this stage. When I think that just over a year ago I was embarking on my first ever restaurant venture, having never cooked professionally, I am actually staggered at what we have achieved."
Michelin declined to comment on the ratings leaks, which soon spread through Twitter. Other new one-star restaurants in England include Heston Blumenthal's Hinds Head dining pub in Bray, Berkshire. The award for Blumenthal brings him level with Gordon Ramsay – both now have five UK Michelin stars. Ramsay's flagship Chelsea restaurant kept its three-star status, as did Blumenthal's Fat Duck, Waterside Inn and Alain Ducasse.
Tom Aikens, the firebrand chef who admits to "moments of genius and madness", reganied the Michelin star he lost after his restaurant business collapsed under a debt mountain. In 2008, Aikens was forced to place his restaurants Tom's Kitchen and Tom Aikens into administration, a move which allowed them to keep going but cost furious suppliers £1m.
The Tom Aikens restaurant in Chelsea, west London, lost its Michelin star when it closed for a complete refurbishment last year. Backed by new business partners, it has returned to favour with both the inspectors and a celebrity clientele following its relaunch in January. Aikens, who once "branded" a kitchen assistant with a hot palette knife, told The Independent: "It's fantastic news. We're delighted to be back in the guide. It remains a fantastic honour and it's a tribute to the whole team here."
Paul Ainsworth, the chef and owner of Number 6 in Padstow, Cornwall, who competed in the BBC2 series Great British Menu, thanked his customers after being awarded his first Michelin star. He tweeted: "Well, a few tears and the most random morning of my life but we have won a Michelin star!! Waited my whole life to put this on the menu!!"
Other new one-star restaurants include Restaurant Tristan in Horsham, West Sussex, Alimentum in Cambridge and Thackeray's in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. In the capital, Launceston Place and Alyn Williams at the Westbury gained their first stars. Among the youngest recipients of stars in London were brother and sister Karam Sethi, 29, and Sunaina Sethi, 24, who run the Trishna Indian restaurant in Marylebone.
Michelin in numbers
171 The number of restablishments awarded new Michelin stars
18 The number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK and Ireland
5 Michelin stars held by Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay
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