CATCH A FALLING (MICHELIN) STAR

by Norman Warwick

A Leyburn chef, Sean Wrest (above) has helped his restaurant receive a coveted Michelin Star.

Sean Wrest is head chef at York restaurant Roots, (left) which it was announced recently has been awarded the prestigious accolade.

After attending Leyburn Primary School and The Wensleydale School, where he studied A Levels with a view to joining the police force, Sean began working as a pot washer at the Three Horseshoes in Wensley, which stimulated his interest and led to an apprenticeship with the Sandpiper Inn, in Leyburn and at Darlington College, where he secured Level 2 and 3 qualifications.

The Fat Duck, Bray

After three years at the Sandpiper under chef patron Jonathan Harrison, Sean’s next post was an internship at the renowned Fat Duck in Bray, the three Michelin star restaurant owned by Heston Blumenthal.

Bray contains two of the five three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the United Kingdom and The Fat Duck is a restaurant run by chef Heston Blumenthal in the centre of Bray. The restaurant opened in 1995, and has held a three-star Michelin Guide rating since 2004. In 2005, it was named as the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine and in 2008, 2009 and 2010, Best Restaurant in the UK, scoring a maximum 10 out of 10 in the Good Food Guide

After moving back north, Sean took up a position at Yorebridge House, Bainbridge, (left) a village we always loved visiting on lazy Sunday afternoons and wandering by the banks of the Bain flowing by the riverside cottage my wife and her family used to stay in for her childhood holidays.

Sean moved on and hones his craft at the chic fine dining restaurant, Maaemo, in Oslo. The world being such a global village these days means that hard work and qualifications are now a passport to international travel and success. Oslo is a wonderful, if expensive city. You can have a pretty good day when your cruise liner pulls in if you head to the statue park, which is incredible, and it sounds like dinner at Maaemo might add to the day nicely.

Sean then secured a job as sous chef at Tommy Banks’ celebrated Michelin star restaurant the beautifully photogenic Black Swan, (left) in Oldstead, near Thirsk, where his girlfriend Sam Haigh is now restaurant manager.

In 2019 ago he became head chef at Tommy Banks’ other restaurant, Roots in York, transforming it from a sharing plate eatery to a venue renowned for its tasting menu.

Sean said: ´I have such a great team down there who all work exceptionally hard. Like the rest of the industry, we have had to overcome a host of obstacles because of COVID and this award is down to them and I could not be prouder of them. Covid was why we took the decision to shift focus when we re-opened in July, as sharing plated then no longer seemed appropriate. Coming from an existing Michelin Star restaurant really helped, as I was able to take with me the skills and ethos I had learned and, of course, its Tommy´s restaurant.´

The restaurant posted out on social media: 

´We are absolutely thrilled and honoured to announce that we have been awarded a #MICHELINstar in this year’s Michelin Guide.

First and foremost, a huge thank you and congratulations to our head chef Sean and the kitchen team for your skill, passion and creativity; to our restaurant manager Emma and our front of house team for always delivering a fantastic service for our guests, and finally to Tommy, Matthew and the Banks family for your drive, direction and creating a truly incredible business that we are all privileged to be a part of.

Lastly, thank you to all our wonderful suppliers for your continued support and, of course, all our wonderful customers – for not only dining with us, but for sharing this journey too.

We can’t wait to welcome diners back to the restaurant, and celebrate together soon.´

Lord´s Cricket Ground

Sean is spending his lockdown time researching recipes for when restaurants can re-open, and is planning menus for a forthcoming project with Lord´s cricket ground.

Since leaving Darlington he has returned on several occasions to work with local students whenever they have staged fine dining evenings in The Glasshouse restaurant.

´Its so important to put something back and to encourage people into the industry,´ he says. ´This used to be a job people naturally fell into but these days and now it presents so many amazing opportunities. Darlington college is a great starting point but it is up to us to inspire and support these young people in their careers. if we don´t we risk a< skills shortage in years to come. when I was at Darlington college there were so many talented students who have gone on to achieve great success.

As Roots was being awarded the coveted Michelin Star accolade, staff at Darlington College were conducting a virtual open evening with prospective catering students.

Senior lecturer Dawn Cobb-Neate, who was Sean´s lecturer at the time of his being a student recalls:

´´On the night of the open evening I was also keeping an eye on the Michelin star results, and when it came through that Sean´s restaurant had secured a star, I was able to tell the young people that this was what they could achieve.

The whole department is absolutely buzzing. It is such phenomenal achievement in such a short space of time. Sean was always determined and passionate about food and his success is certainly inspiring young people.

Actually, I visited Roots last year  and knew it was only a matter of time before it secured  a star. Is brilliant and the food is amazing.´

The inexorable procession of covid seems, surely by serendipity, to be matched by the increasing profusion of chef and cookery programmes on TV. In the UK it is not only restaurants being closed but it also food fayres and gastonomical events being cancelled due to lockdown.

The Ramsbottom Chocolate festival which has always been held on the town´s streets, somewhat sadistically you might think, on the last Sunday of Lent didn´t take place in 2020 and here on Lanzarote our wonderfully rustic annual Goats And Cheese Fair was similarly cancelled.

El Calaton, El Golfo, Lanzarote

To be fair though, Sidetracks & Detours have nominated plenty of ´delicious dessert´ for awards in those restaurants and pavement bars that have been allowed to remain open under our slightly more relaxed covid rulings. These include Lani´s and La Cubierta and Yum Yums and The Camel in Playa Blanca, and El Calaton in El Golfo, and there are plenty more I could tell readers about too.

However, its 1.15 pm and we´re off to one of the above for lunch and I hope my wife, a stricter closer downer that any covid regulator, might allow me to have one of the wonderful ice-cream concoctions they all offer. I´ll tell her it is for review purposes !

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