On 27 April, Richard Johns will cook dinner at his small and delightful Artisan at Hessle and when his wife Lindsey, front of house, says goodbye to the last customer, they will lock the door and close for good.
The Johns created Artisan from nothing and went on to pick up cracking reviews. They were rated a highly reputable 5/10 in the Good Food Guide and for what it’s worth I was on the judging panel that awarded them Yorkshire Life Restaurant of the Year in 2008. It was very good.
Artisan is not closing because of the recession. According to Johns, they are financially sound. No, Artisan, a valuable little restaurant in a gastronomic desert, is closing, they say, because they’ve won everything but a Michelin star and there’s nowhere else to go.
What a shame. How sad that a brilliant restaurant should close purely because the owners believe it has not been sufficiently recognised by a guide that we feel is an anachronism.
We don’t know anyone who actually buys the Michelin guide. Do you? For punters and people like us who write about food, a Michelin star is merely shorthand for a certain sort of top end restaurant and yet for many chefs, Johns included, it means everything.
He’s been quoted as saying they wondered why they weren’t good enough. That if they’d got a star things would have been different, and any chef cooking at this level who doesn’t want a star is lying.
He’s probably right. A star would have propelled Artisan into a brighter limelight and brought them new business, but for those of us who couldn’t care an out of season fig for Michelin, it’s terrible that a) Michelin has so much power and b) that it matters so much to chefs. Remember the French chef Bernard Loiseau who committed suicide after it was suggested he might be stripped of one of his three Michelin stars?
We wish Richard and Lindsey the greatest of good luck for the future. We hope that time away from the restaurant will give them a different perspective, that they will come back and open somewhere else, and trust that a Michelin star really doesn’t matter to those of us who like good food. Like the Star at Harome who lost theirs, or Anthony’s in Leeds, who thought they should have got one but didn’t, we continue to love them anyway.