Head chef quits Michelin two-star restaurant in Dublin

Mickael Viljanen leaves the Greenhouse after winning it a second star in 2020

Mickael Viljanen, head chef at the Greenhouse in Dublin, one of only three restaurants in Ireland to hold two Michelin stars, has resigned. It is not yet known what his next move will be, but it is expected he will remain in Ireland.

The restaurant, on Dawson Street, close to St Stephen’s Green, is owned by Eamonn O’Reilly, who also owns One Pico, nearby on Molesworth Place. Both businesses have had to close during successive pandemic lockdowns, and they have been shuttered since December last year.

Viljanen took charge of the kitchen at the Greenhouse in 2012. The restaurant was awarded its first star in the 2016 Michelin Guide, with a second following in the 2020 edition.

When invited to contribute to this article, O’Reilly chose not to do so, but later released a statement on social media, saying: “This has come as a complete surprise and shock after a very long and successful relationship. I wish Mickael the very best for the future. He is without question one of the most gifted chefs in Ireland and Great Britain. I will now take some time to decide how the Greenhouse moves forward.”

Ireland’s other two-star restaurants are Aimsir, in Co Kildare, which earned them in its debut appearance in the guide, in 2020, and Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, on Upper Merrion Street in Dublin, which has had two stars since 1996.

According to Michelin, the stars are awarded to restaurants, not chefs, so even with Viljanen’s departure the Greenhouse’s two-star plaque can remain in place at least until the next edition of the guide is published. A spokesperson for Michelin said: “Michelin stars are awarded to a restaurant rather than a specific chef, so the stars stay with that restaurant if a head chef leaves. The inspectors will return to the restaurant concerned and reassess the cooking under the new chef, and likewise the inspectors would be interested to discover the future position of the departing chef.”

The Greenhouse, which sources ingredients from all over the world for its elaborate tasting menus, was considered by many industry professionals and restaurant critics to be operating at two-star level for several years before being given the recognition by Michelin.

“Bless you, you have earned your place,” said the chef and restaurateur Raymond Blanc, when he presented Viljanen with his monogrammed two-star chef’s jacket at the awards ceremony in London to launch the 2020 Michelin Guide. “Thank f**k,” was Viljanen’s response.

Asked what he put his elevation down to, the chef said: “We stopped putting too many things on the plate and bought the best produce. My life is just food. It’s down to that and great people.”

In its citation at the launch of the 2020 guide, Michelin said of the Greenhouse: "The cooking has flair, depth and clarity; sauces are stunning and dishes have plenty of personality." Reviewing the restaurant in The Irish Times in June 2018, Catherine Cleary wrote: "Outside Ireland, cooking at this level starts at three figures a head. My dining companion, the Patrick Moore of starred meals, thinks the dial wavers here between two and three stars."

Viljanen, who is Finnish, moved to Ireland from the UK in 2000; he previously worked at the Tannery, in Dungarvan, and Gregans Castle, in Co Clare, where he spent five years as head chef.

He has been named Chef of the Year on multiple occasions in Ireland, by the Restaurants Association of Ireland, the Georgina Campbell Guide and Food & Wine magazine.

Viljanen was a judge in the San Pellegrino World Young Chef regional final in London in 2018. Mark Moriarty, winner of the global final of that competition in 2015, also works at the Greenhouse. In 2018 the pair, along with Graham Neville of Dax restaurant, cooked a seven-course tasting menu for 120 guests, over four nights, at Test Kitchen in Hong Kong.

During the first pandemic lockdown, in April last year, Viljanen and Moriarty, together with another chef, Paddy Lee, raised funds through a GoFundMe campaign to cook several hundred meals a day for frontline healthcare workers.

Last month Viljanen travelled to the Maldives to participate in a visiting-chef programme at a Soneva hotel, serving six tasting-menu dinners to guests at the resort, including the US model, TV personality and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen, who referenced his food on her Instagram account, which has just under 35 million followers.

This article was edited on May 19th at 10.45pm

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