By Susan Low
The pandemic has been tough for many all sectors of the economy, but restaurants have had to deal with more challenges than most. The restaurant trade has learnt to be resilient though, and it is great to see existing restaurants bouncing back and many new businesses taking off.
Diners seeking the best restaurants now have countless online review sites to choose from, but when it comes to the pinnacle of the restaurant world, the stars awarded by the Michelin Guide remain the most coveted industry accolade.
First compiled in France at the turn of the 20th century, the Michelin Guide was aimed at drivers of the trendy new motorcar. It had a print run of 35,000 and included maps and lists of restaurants including those worth dropping in if you were passing, those worth taking a detour for, and those worthy of a special trip; it now lists more than 15,000 restaurants, from Scotland to Singapore.
The Michelin star-rating system is not without its critics, but through the decades, that list of “destination” restaurants has retained its significance, and achieving Michelin star status is a key aspiration for many budding chefs.
ckbk is home to numerous of cookbooks from chefs around the world who have won stars themselves or played lead roles in Michelin-starred kitchen. In this guide, we especially focus on books from UK-based Michelin-star chefs.
So you like a challenge? May we introduce you to Sat Bains (pictured at work in his kitchen, above). Derby-born Bains is known in the trade to be a master of technique. In 1999, he won a prestigious Roux Scholarship, a competition aimed at young chefs with high ambitions. A subsequent stage at Le Jardin des Sens restaurant in Montpellier, France, set Bains on the path of classic cooking that would define his career.
Back in Nottingham at his Restaurant Sat Bains, he gained his first Michelin star in 2003 and his second in 2011. His influential Too Many Chefs, Only One Indian (a reference to his Indian heritage), published in 2012, is based on recipes from his restaurant’s tasting menus.
Dishes such as Loch Duart Salmon with Pickled Vegetables and Roast Artichoke with Ham and Truffle are not quick and easy, but they more than reward skilled endeavor, and the book gives insight into the mind of the chef.
French-born Alain Ducasse is a living legend among chefs. He’s been awarded some 17 Michelin stars in France and the UK (he earned his first Michelin star in 1986, as chef at La Terrasse restaurant in Juan-les-Pin in Antibes, and the restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London currently holds three Michelin stars) and is noted for his dedication to the flavors of France and to classical technique.
The simplified, step-by-step recipes in My Best: Alain Ducasse, published in 2014, are a brilliant introduction to classical French cuisine. Dive right in and master Ducasse’s favorite dessert, Rum Baba.
French cuisine is not all about the haute, of course. French-born, UK-based Daniel Galmiche retained the Michelin star when he joined Harvey’s restaurant in Bristol, before earning a star in his own right at Cliveden House in Berkshire in 2006.
If you want to feel all smug about being able to confidently turn out food from a Michelin-starred chef, Galmiche’s The French Brasserie Cookbook and French Countryside Cooking are the books to go for. Soufflé au Fromage and Coriander & Star Anise Pork Rillettes will give you the full bistro-at-home experience.
Explore the bistro theme further with chef Anthony Demetre’s Today’s Special: A New Take on Bistro Food. Demetre, who earned a Michelin star at London’s Putney Bridge restaurant in 1999 and has worked with Pierre Koffmann and Bruno Loubet, certainly knows his way around a French menu.
Demetre’s Soho restaurant Arbutus, which was open from 2006 to 2016, was London’s answer to Paris’ bistro moderne – “a movement that has flourished in Paris but has had only a slow steady rise in London,” as Demetre explains in the book’s introduction. “To us, such restaurants have more soul, passion, and common ground with the general public,” he writes. Typical plats du jour such as Pig’s Cheek, Ear and Trotter Salad with Crisp Barley, and Sauté of Lamb Neck Fillet with Artichokes will test your technique and reward your palate.
What became known as Modern British cooking arguably got its start in the 1970s and flourished during the 1980s and ’90s. Modern British married classical French technique with traditional British ingredients and, as time went on and it morphed into ‘Modern European’, it fused global ingredients with British fare.
Chef Joyce Molyneux, often regarded as a forerunner of Modern British cuisine, led the kitchen at the Carved Angel restaurant in Dartmouth, Devon where she became one of the very first female chefs to win a Michelin star. The Carved Angel Cookery Book, published in 1990 with co-writer Sophie Grigson, sold phenomenally well, especially for a book that was not penned by a TV chef. Its popularity reflected the fact that the recipes, though sometimes ambitious, were always written with the home cook in mind.
“I hope that readers will use this book in the way that I use cookery books, as a springboard for ideas, trying out recipes and tempering them to their own way of eating. If it gives them the confidence to use an unfamiliar ingredient or a familiar one in a new way, then it will have been worthwhile,” Molyneux writes in the introduction.
Gary Rhodes carried the Modern British mantle for many years, until his untimely death in 2019, helping to rebuild the reputation of British cooking around the world. A prolific cookbook author (he wrote some 20 cookbooks), as well as popular television presenter, he held six Michelin stars over the course of his career. He retained a Michelin star at The Castle in Somerset (owned then, as now, by ckbk author Kit Chapman), and went on to achieve a Michelin star from scratch at The Greenhouse in Mayfair in 1996 and several further restaurants.
His style was based on fusing traditional British ingredients with modern technique, and he gave a new lease of life to many traditional British foods. Five of his cookbooks feature on ckbk, including more than 900 recipes.
Choosing Rhodes’s best dishes isn’t easy – although ckbk founder Matthew Cockerill had a go with his Gary Rhodes Favourites collection. Other recipes that give a flavor of Rhodes’ talents would be Steak and Kidney Pudding and Steamed Victoria Plum Pudding.
Stephen Bull had a successful career in advertising before going on to become a noted chef. He won a Michelin star for Lichfield’s in Richmond and another star at Fulham Road restaurant in Chelsea, in London. His book Classic Bull is a brilliant advertisement for the gutsy-yet-refined cooking that defined his kitchen style.
The recipes, writes Bull, are “written for the home cook who knows the basics, likes to cook for the buzz of achievement but is also looking for simple, interesting, no-fuss dishes; who has a decent range of equipment (you’ll need a food processor but not a mandoline), and limited time but can occasionally push the boat out; who has a budget to keep to and a store cupboard smaller than Selfridges’ food hall.”
His Chocolate Soufflés (which, Bull writes, “can’t be bettered”) and his Rabbit Braised in Red Wine with Orange and Allspice are just a couple of recipes that show the Bull approach to Modern British cooking.
Stephen Bull also set up and ran three eponymous restaurants in London, and it was at Bull’s Blandford Street restaurant that Irish-born chef Richard Corrigan won a Michelin star in 1994. Corrigan also won a star for his own Lindsay House restaurant in 1997 and has run some of London’s best-loved restaurants, including Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill and Daffodil Mulligan.
Corrigan’s cooking is all about seasonality and quality of ingredients – hardly surprising given that he grew up on a farm in Ireland. In his Richard Corrigan Cookbook, the chef describes his cooking as, “Farmhouse cooking with a bit of Cordon Bleu thrown in” – an apt description for dishes such as Crisp-Fried Crubbeens with Tartare Sauce and Saddle of Rabbit with Black Pudding, Roast Vegetable, and Wild Mushroom Juice. (These recipes will challenge your cooking skills too.)
Michelin-starred restaurants may have the reputation for being hushed, starched-linen affairs, but that cliché doesn’t necessarily hold true – and certainly not in Northern England. Andrew Pern is chef and owner of The Star Inn at Harome – a pub with rooms in the North Yorkshire Moors. Pern won a Michelin star at The Star Inn in 2002, only the second UK pub to gain that accolade.
Pern’s first book, Black Pudding & Foie Gras, gives insight into his approach to cooking (he also grew up on a farm, and seasonality is a byword) and running a pub. His second title, Loose Birds & Game focuses on the wild fare on which his kitchen reputation was largely forged. Recipes such as Pressed Terrine of Yorkshire Gammon and Corn-Fed Guinea Fowl with Lemon Balm Risotto show the chef’s love for local in-season ingredients, and will give home cooks a creative challenge.
Over in East Yorkshire, James Mackenzie is chef-owner of the Pipe and Glass Inn (also a pub – it’s clearly a Yorkshire thing…), which has held a Michelin star since 2010. Mackenzie and Pern are mates: Mackenzie used to work at The Star Inn, where became attuned to the importance of local, seasonal produce.
Mackenzie’s book On the Menu: Seasonal Recipes for a Culinary Life has recipes for Scallops with Ratatouille and Barnsley Chop (a signature dish), dishes that are typical of the elevated gastropub fare that the chef is known for.
Before Andrew Pern and before James Mackenzie, there was chef Paul Heathcote of The Longridge Restaurant (formerly Heathcote’s) in Preston, Lancashire. Having trained under Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, Heathcote was a leading light of Modern British cooking and helped to pave the way for chefs with fine-dining aspirations in the north of the country.
Heathcote earned two Michelin stars for his restaurant and championed local ingredients (black pudding was a favorite) over his 20-plus year career. His book Rhubarb and Black Pudding is filled with elevated recipes based on traditional local produce, such as Black Pudding on Crushed Potatoes, and traditional dishes such as Eccles Cakes.
New to ckbk, Galton Blackiston’s Hook Line Sinker should be the first port of call if you want to try your hand at cooking fish and seafood the Michelin way. Blackiston is chef-patron of Morston Hall near the North Norfolk coast, and has held a Michelin star since 1999. The region is home to some of the best seafood in the country, and its landscape was an inspiration to this self-taught chef since long before he ran a restaurant.
Sample recipe: T-bone Plaice with Baby Squid, Champagne & Caviar Sauce
Abruzzo-born Danilo Cortellini now makes his home in London, where he is head chef at the Italian Embassy. Previously, Danilo worked at three Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, and at Michelin-starred Zafferano in Knightsbridge. His book 4 Grosvenor Square details life (and food) in a diplomatic kitchen.
Sample recipe: Lamb with Liquorice Sauce, Broad Bean Pesto, Wild Chicory
Chef and prolific cookbook author Paul Gayler was among the first wave of elite chefs to give proper attention to seasonal vegetarian cooking. Gayler earned a Michelin star at Inigo Jones Restaurant in Covent Garden (which had a veg-focused menu) back in 1982. His two books on ckbk, Pure Vegetarian and A Passion for Vegetables, offer a wide range of choices for vegetable aficionados with stellar aspirations, and more of Paul’s books are on the way.
Sample recipe: Swiss Chard and Pear Tart
We’ve only had space to describe a fraction of the Michelin-star cookbooks available via ckbk. There are many more to be found in our “Michelin and more…” collection. For example, John Campbell held two Michelin stars at The Vineyard and his classic cookbook Formulas for Flavour (introduced with a foreword by Heston Blumenthal) takes a truly rigorous and scientific approach to gastronomy.
Finally, the notable pairing of Cooking at The Merchant House by Shaun Hill and Leaves from The Walnut Tree by Franco and Anna Taruschio deserves a special mention. Two Michelin star restaurant cookbooks, linked by the chef Shaun Hill, who in 2008 moved on from The Merchant House in Ludlow to become Chef Proprietor at The Walnut Tree Inn in Abergavenny, following the Taruschios’ retirement. With an impressive 50 year long career behind him, Shaun Hill continues to hold a Michelin star at The Walnut Tree to this day.
If you are the sort of cook who likes to take on a challenge, did you know there’s an easy way to find more advanced, chef-style recipes on ckbk? Just tick the ‘Complex’ box in the Difficulty dropdown menu (see above), and search for any dish or ingredient. You’ll find more than 1,800 advanced recipes to test your skills.