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What is it really like getting a Michelin star?

Àclèaf head chef Scott Paton shares the experience of achieving his first star last year
Michelin star dish at Àclèaf at Boringdon Hall

Ever wondered what it’s really like getting a Michelin star? Chef Scott Paton of Àclèaf at Boringdon Hall near Plymouth reveals all

There’s a shroud of intrigue surrounding all things Michelin: the review process, the MI5-style anonymity of inspectors, the behind-closed-doors agonies of chefs struggling to achieve and – even more torturous – maintain their star. Yet it’s no secret that it’s extraordinary cooking and a specific quality of dining experience that unlocks Michelin star status. Scott shares the experience of achieving his first star last year.

Scott Paton

What are the key elements to get right?

Michelin looks for an exceptionally high level of consistency, a constant striving to be better, and to see a chef’s personality come through in the cooking. The diner should be able to tell which restaurant a plate of food has come from.

How do you avoid being overly influenced by other chefs?

We’ve never taken much notice of what other places are doing; it’s really important to me that we create our own style. Perhaps that’s why it took a little longer to gain our star. However, I’m comfortable we did it the right way.

Did you identify your Michelin reviewer?

We had no inkling we were being reviewed when they actually visited. There’s an expectation that inspectors will be single diners – which is actually not true – and being close to Derriford Hospital we have a lot of doctors who come in alone. You don’t know who the inspector is and there’s no contact with Michelin whatsoever; you simply have to be comfortable with what you’re doing and do it on a consistent basis.

Does the star feel like a burden?

The biggest pressure is the fear of losing it. There’s also the thing about not feeling good enough; I’m not an overconfident person so imposter syndrome set in for me pretty quickly. In the couple of months after gaining the star we were trying to keep everything exactly the same, but then I realised that we earnt it in the first place by being progressive. That was a liberating moment.

What’s the atmosphere like in your kitchen?

It’s hyper focused. The only conversations that take place are related to service, and all the lights are switched off apart from those at the pass so we can really concentrate on what we’re putting on the plate.

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