On Monday, when Michelin announced its annual list of starred restaurants for the U.K. and Ireland, the biggest winner was Core, chef Clare Smyth’s first solo restaurant. It won the prestigious award of two Michelin stars, in its first year of eligibility, following in the footsteps of Claude Bosi’s Bibendum in 2017.
For half a decade, Smyth was one of only three U.K.-based chefs to run a three Michelin-starred restaurant, but Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, in Chelsea, was not her own; she’s the only female chef ever to have run a three-star kitchen in the U.K. Smyth, by so many measures, is one of the world’s most decorated chefs. And now, she’s the chef-patron of her own two-Michelin-starred restaurant: A 54-cover dining room at 92 Kensington Park Road in west London’s Notting Hill, whose kitchen is overseen by head chef Jonny Bone.
Eater London spoke to Smyth about her new stars, how it compares to being named the “best female chef in the world,” and whether she might be targeting the top tier — winning three Michelin stars — in 2019. Here’s what she had to say.
What were your expectations from Michelin this year? It seems that everyone was predicting at least two stars for Core, which although Bibendum did it last year, its pretty unusual. Was it hard not to have high hopes?
Obviously, we were delighted but we don’t judge ourselves, we just do the best we can. I still cook to the same level every day, we don’t do anything differently. We also had a tremendous curve this first year — getting in our stride, and getting the team up to a level. One year later our team is much stronger.
Does this matter more to you than the recognition you received earlier this year from 50 Best?
These are two completely different things. The Michelin stars reflect the quality of Core and the restaurant’s quality standards. The 50 Best Female Chef Award shined a spotlight on my career and isn’t awarded for restaurant performance.
Core has had a truly incredible first year. Has the reaction exceeded your expectations?
Yes, it has. I genuinely didn’t think we would be as busy and as full as we have been. We have been a part of some truly incredible things in the last 12 months and it is genuinely humbling to see how much support we have received. I am so grateful!
How did it feel going on stage, standing next to your one-time mentor to receive such an accolade?
It was a perfect moment for me. Gordon has been such a support. He has always believed in me and it was so nice to make him proud.
What do you hope to achieve next? Is the goal to push for three stars, and do you think it’s realistic to expect that could come next year?
I am not expecting to get three stars next year, but we have had a tremendous first year to get the restaurant to that level and we have so much to more to give in year two. I’ve spent 15 years working in three star restaurants and I know exactly what it takes.
Take a look around and behind the scenes at London’s newly two-Michelin-starred Core by Clare Smyth.