Michelin Star Awards

Image courtesy of Fabrizio Magoni on Unsplash

France remains the centre of the universe when it comes to la haute cuisine. In fact, it would be true to say that in more general terms, France remains at the centre of the world when it comes to cuisine. The Michelin organisation began in 1920. Today the guidebook covers more than 25 countries, including the UK and of course within that, Scotland.

The annual unveiling of new Michelin starred restaurants is a big deal. It’s an even bigger deal if you are good enough, and fortunate enough to claim a Michelin Star. For many, it’s the French equivalent of the Oscars. This year the event was held in Tours, a culinary hotspot situated in the Loire Valley. It’s quite a new thing for the event to be held outside Paris. Taking the show on the road is part of a marketing effort to stimulate the brand (as if it needed it in France) and to interest a younger audience. 

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This year however, there is the whiff of controversy in the air and stirred up, in part, by Michelin Guide’s International Director, Monsieur Gwendal Poullennec.  In a speech ahead of the announcement of winners, he asked, “Where are the women?” He went on to say, “too few women are leading kitchens, even though more and more of them are working in kitchens. It’s a reality we deplore. I know many chefs have come up with strong initiatives to promote talented young women. I’m very happy about that and hope that one day they’ll open their own restaurants.

Of the 52 newly anointed Michelin Starred chefs in France this year, only 6 are women (11.5%). Each of these amazing women received one star, but of these only one woman was awarded a star on her own – Eugénie Béziat, head chef at the Ritz Paris’ flagship restaurant, L’Espadon. The other women earned their stars as part of duos with male co-chefs – including Adeline Lesage for Nacre near Bordeaux, Emilie Roussey for Le Moulin de Cambelong outside Toulouse and Florencia Montes for Onice in Nice. A rare pairing of female chefs – Manon Fleury and Laurène Barjhoux – earned a star for their restaurant Datil in Paris.

But this ratio isn’t an anomaly. Of the 639 French restaurants holding Michelin Star accreditation women make up about 10% of the total. And this is a ratio that is seen beyond France. Anyone who has watched Master Chef will know that a common point of influence stated by many professional Chefs is that their original passion for cooking began working at home in the kitchen with their mother, or grandmother. This renowned domestic expertise hasn’t yet translated into a large enough presence at the top end of the scale as evidenced by Michelin accreditation.

Being surprised by this ratio, we looked at the ratio for Scottish, Michelin Star restaurants and it follows the French pattern. There are ten Michelin Star restaurants in Scotland. Only one of these boasts a female head chef and that’s Glasgow’s Cail Bruich where the renowned Lorna McNeecan be found. 

The following table (Courtesy of High Growth Scotland) identifies those Scottish restaurants and their respective Chefs who hold the coveted Michelin Star accreditation. Let’s hope that in the not-too-distant future Scotland can boast of more Michelin starred restaurants, and among them recognition for more great female chefs.

RestaurantLocationChef Michelin Stars
Restaurant Andrew FairlieGleneaglesStephen McLaughlin2
Lalique at GlenturretCrieffMark Donald2
ConditaEdinburghConnor Toomey1
Cail BruichGlasgowLorna McNee1
The KitchinEdinburghTom Kitchin1
Martin WishartEdinburghMartin Wishart 1
Loch BayIsle of SkyeMichael Smith1
Peat InnCuparGeoffrey Smeddle1
TimberyardEdinburghJimmy Murray1
UnalomeGlasgowGraeme Cheevers1
HeronEdinburghSam Yorke1

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