Clare Smyth, who catered for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s evening wedding reception, has been awarded two stars for her first solo venture, Core, in the 2019 Michelin guide for Great Britain and Ireland.
The accolade for the restaurant in Notting Hill, west London, which opened in July 2017, is the latest achievement for Antrim-born Smyth, who, in July this year, was named the world’s best female chef and last year won the Michelin Guide’s inaugural award for best female chef.
Smyth, a protege of Gordon Ramsay, was greeted on stage at the BFI Imax in central London with a kiss from her former boss. She told the audience of 400 people, including 180 chefs: “It makes it obviously even more special that Gordon’s handing it to me … It’s been a hell of a year. We’ve achieved what we really set out to achieve.”
Smyth has bemoaned the dearth of women at the pinnacle of her profession. When receiving the best female chef in the world award, she said: “To separate [male and female chefs] for me is strange, but we don’t see enough women coming through at the top.”
The lack of women at the top was highlighted by the fact that only one other restaurant with a female head chef – Sabot, in Mayfair, central London, where Nieves Barragán is in charge – was awarded any new stars in the 2019 guide.
Smyth told the Guardian: “It’s nice to be out there and doing it for female chefs. We just need to encourage more women to come into the industry and if I can help inspire other people to do that, I think it makes our whole industry better.”
Commenting on the fact that only one other female head chef was honoured at the ceremony, she said: “It’s probably a reflection of the number of women in the industry. We need more women to come into the industry.”
Ramsay said: “She’s tremendous – she’s the Margaret Thatcher of cooking. She knows what she wants and she comes from a good stable. To get two stars straight away – there are chefs who have been cooking for 30 years and haven’t got two stars – is a testament to her capabilities.”
Smyth, who catered for 200 people at the royal wedding evening reception on 19 May, was made an MBE in 2013 for services to the hospitality industry. She served “posh burgers” and pork belly with candy floss for guests including Sir Elton John, the Beckhams, George and Amal Clooney, and Serena Williams.
Smyth left her family’s farm between Ballymena and Belfast when she was 16 to study catering at Highbury college in Portsmouth. She then worked at Sir Terence Conran’s Michelin House restaurant, the French Laundry in California and Per Se in New York, before becoming chef patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in 2007.
At Restaurant Gordon Ramsay she became the first and only female chef to run a British restaurant with three Michelin stars – one of only seven women globally to have held the coveted rating. The Michelin inspectors said they were “bowled over by the depth of flavour … all of your cooking delivers”.
Two other restaurants were newly awarded two stars, though unlike Core, both Moor Hall in Aughton, west Lancashire, and Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs in Fitzrovia, central London, previously had one star.
In all, 21 restaurants were newly awarded one star and three were newly awarded two stars, which is believed to be a record. There were no restaurants joining the four in the UK, and 100 or so globally, that have three stars.
Reflecting a growing trend, a number of pubs – or former pubs – were awarded one star, including the Chestnut in west Cork, one of three places in the Irish city to get a star, and the White Swan just outside Burnley in Lancashire.
Brat also won a star, having opened in a former strip club in Shoreditch, east London, where it offers Basque-style cooking over an open fire.
There was also a star for Salt in Stratford-on-Avon, which was launched after a kickstarter campaign. The head chef, Paul Foster, said: “I took a risk, left my job, told my wife – she wasn’t very happy … we got a hundred grand, we put everything into the restaurant.”
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