What a Michelin star means for Glasgow

What a Michelin star means for Glasgow

Cail Bruich

We are very much looking forward to restarting our tours on the 10th of June. This lockdown has felt long and our guides cannot wait to start showing guests around town again.

There have certainly been some changes on Glasgow’s eating and drinking scene since we last led our tours. Unfortunately, some of the changes have not been good. A number of long established restaurants did not survive. As always, new restaurants and bars have sprung up in their place and I expect that a future blog will take a closer look at some of the newbies.

For this month’s blog, we want to talk about the very welcome news of Glasgow’s first Michelin star since Gordon Ramsay’s Amaryllis closed in 2004. The star went to Cail Bruich on Great Western Road. It was awarded in January of this year, only six months after Lorna McNee was appointed head chef.

Michelin star: Lorna McNee at Cail Bruich

Champion of Champions

It was Lorna’s first head chef role having previously worked her way up to sous chef after starting out as an apprentice at the two Michelin star Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles. If Lorna’s face seems familiar then it may be because she won the ‘Champion of Champions’ title on the BBC’s Great British Menu in 2019.

Michelin star Glasgow

The Michelin star system is not without its detractors. There are accusations that it is elitist, stuck-in-the-mud and overly keen to reward classic French-style cooking rather than taking onboard the huge diversity of culinary talent in 21st century UK. There may be some truth in all of those allegations. However, a Michelin star is the one award that most chefs want above all others. If you have five AA rosettes then you are running a world class restaurant but those five rosettes will not put bums on seats as quickly as a Michelin star will.

Gaining a Michelin star does not just benefit its recipient. They can cast an enticing rosy glow over the surrounding restaurant scene. People will travel long distances just to eat at a Michelin restaurant and this has knock-on benefits for accommodation providers and other restaurants. People will come to Edinburgh to eat at, say, Tom Kitchin’s, Restaurant Martin Wishart and Condita, all of which have one star. However, even the most devoted food lover does not want to eat Michelin food morning, noon and night. They will visit other places while in town.

Competitive chefs

When a restaurant is awarded a Michelin star, other restaurants in its orbit tend to up their game. Thankfully for most TV cooking shows, chefs are a competitive bunch. If one of their peers, and possibly one of their pals, is given a star then many chefs will be twice as determined to show that they too have ferocious kitchen skills. It does not mean that they are necessarily gunning for a star of their own but no-one, especially chefs, wants to be seen as second best.

Thanks to their stage, or training stint, system Michelin restaurants also up skill a location’s existing pool of chef talent. Chefs like to have a month or two at a Michelin restaurant on their CV. It shows ambition, drive and dedication – all useful traits should they go on to start their own business.

For a long time, Glasgow often demonstrated a sort of slightly huffy disdain about Michelin stars. The attitude was ‘We don’t want one anyway. Michelin stars are for stuffy, formal places and we’re Glasgow. We’re not like that snooty city on the other end of the M8’. This blogger suspects that anyone who thought that way has changed their tune since the Michelin man smiled on Cail Bruich a few months ago.

Here at Eat Walk Glasgow, we think it’s brilliant for Glasgow and we doff our hats to Lorna and Chris and Paul Charalambous, the brothers who started the restaurant in 2008.

Right, we’re off to shine up our walking shoes. See you on tour?

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