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Michelin star in memoriam

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Maze restaurant received Michelin star after Gordon Ramsay annouced his departure. (ČTK)Maze restaurant received Michelin star after Gordon Ramsay annouced his departure. (ČTK)

Few would believe that the Prague Maze restaurant has just won a prestigious culinary award. The restaurant is almost empty, and there are more staff than customers.

“Gentlemen, I have the pleasure to tell you that our restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star today,” Maze manager announces to two young Americans sitting at a table. “What did it get?” one of them inquires and politely listens to the explanation.

The Czechs are much more excited about the award: Last year, the first local restaurant received a star and this year another one was added to the list.

No more Ramsay

The second Czech Michelin star, however, has a bitter taste. Commissioners of the famous gastronomical guide awarded it in memoriam. British chef Gordon Ramsay, who owns the restaurant network of which Maze is a member, announced he was leaving the Czech market in the middle of February.

This year’s edition of the Michelin Main Cities of Europe for the Maze entry includes a note saying “Gordon Ramsay no longer heads this restaurant”.

“The guide was put together based on data the commissioners gathered last year,” said Daniel Cahel, spokesman of Czech Michelin branch.

Ramsay handed Maze over to the hotel Hilton Old Town, which has been housing the restaurant until now. It is not clear yet who the new chef will be. The restaurant still serves Ramsay’s menu; a new one will be introduced in April.

Andrea Accordi’s Allegro restaurant has had the second Czech star for a year now. The energetic Italian chef did not hide his joy from keeping the star on Monday. “We’re celebrating,” he merrily announced at 5pm.

Only for famous?

The joy of having a second star in the Czech Republic has been tarnished by the fact that it was not won by a Czech chef. Oldřich Sahajdák from La Degustation was considered to be the favourite this year, and Michelin commissioners visited his restaurant repeatedly.

La Degustation can easily stand side by side with Allegro and Maze. It equals them both in terms of the food and the service. In addition, La Degustation cooks from local ingredients and uses Czech recipes and that usually means extra points from Michelin.

It has been believed, in the gastronomical world, that the commissioners judge famous chefs differently than the unknown talents from small countries. “There is one commissioner from Manchester responsible for evaluating Czech restaurants who has almost a pathological respect for famous names,” said a source in close connection with the French headquarters of the guide. It is also well known that the commissioners value French cuisine the most. When Michelin started to put together a Japanese edition of the guide a year ago, culinary patriots started a debate on whether a Frenchman is capable of examining the nuances of Asian food.

In the end, the French invited two local commissioners to join the five-member evaluating team for Japan. The Japanese market was too important to Michelin to risk negative exposure.

The Czech Republic does not have such an important voice. And the stars it collected were gained thanks to two men who have already proven their skills abroad – Andrea Accordi received one star at his previous post in Florence and Ramsay was preceded by his reputation of owning multiple restaurants with stars.

Still, the Czech Republic is doing well in the central European context. Slovakia did not appear in this year’s Main Cities of Europe guide at all, Poland and Hungary have no star, but they each received one Bib Gourmand, an award for good food for good prices.

Czech Bibs were awarded to Aromi and Le Terroir, which both received them last year as well, and to the Prague restaurant Le Cornichon, where the chef Patrick Olivier offers traditional French delicacies such as rabbit pâté with armagnac and pistachios , Burgundy snails or lamb with white beans.

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