Mickael Viljanen, who resigned this week as head chef at the Greenhouse restaurant in Dublin, is to take over the kitchen at Chapter One, on the other side of the River Liffey. Viljanen and Ross Lewis, Chapter One's chef-owner, have entered a business partnership that will see the restaurant reopen as Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen, with the two chefs as co-owners.
Key members of Viljanen's kitchen team at the Greenhouse, which earned its second Michelin star in the 2020 edition of the influential guide, are expected to follow him to Chapter One, which will reopen as soon as pandemic restrictions allow.
Lewis will remain a shareholder in and director of the restaurant, and will have an active role in the new business, but will no longer be cooking. He has owned the restaurant for 29 years, initially in partnership with Martin Corbett and since 2017, on Corbett’s retirement, as joint owner with his wife, Jessica. “The idea is for me to now engage with the day-to-day running of the business side of it and to support Mickael in the way forward. I am partnering him, and I’ll be here for some years to come.
“You get to a certain stage in your career when you do start thinking about what the next five or 10 years will hold. I got to the stage where I was looking to the future and saying mine is not the energy to take it on to the next part of the journey. Then Covid came along, and I had time to reflect on it,” Lewis says.
"I feel the time is now right to step away from the Chapter One kitchen to allow for a new creative energy to build on the foundations of the last 29 years' work. Although this moment is bitter-sweet, I am also excited about welcoming Mickael to Chapter One. He is a hugely talented chef who is ready to become chef-patron. Freeing myself from the Chapter One kitchen will allow me to focus my culinary gaze on my Italian restaurant, Osteria Lucio, on Clanwilliam Terrace, which I plan to upgrade over the coming year."
Viljanen, who says he has informed Michelin of the developments and that “they seemed very keen to see what happens next”, does not intend to alter his modern-European style of cooking in the move. “Ah, you know, tigers and stripes. I know what I know, but obviously we are going to build on what’s been done so far by the team and whoever is going to go with me.”
Does that mean he will be aiming to replicate the two Michelin stars the Greenhouse was awarded in 2020 at Chapter One, which has been a one-star since 2007? “I am aiming for a good busy restaurant, but my ambitions haven’t diminished since I left,” he says. “My intention is to get my head down as soon as possible and go back to where I belong, which is the kitchen. I would like to see us have a very accessible Irish restaurant of international standing.”
Lewis says the “valuable contribution from staff past and present, some of whom have been long-serving, cannot be measured. The team is looking forward now to a new challenge.”
Viljanen, who was born in Sweden and grew up in Finland, came 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.