Chef Michael Deane has retained his position as the proud owner of Northern Ireland’s only Michelin star.
It is the 13th consecutive year that the Belfast-based restaurateur has picked up the much sought-after accolade for his Howard Street premises.
However, he has told the Belfast Telegraph that he does not believe the province is lagging behind the rest of the UK in culinary excellence, despite failing to attract any further stars.
He said: “A Michelin star is very hard to aspire to, and with the way the world is now it's going to be even more difficult.”
The chef attributes his talented team as the reason his restaurant has been on the list for 13 years in a row.
“We're surrounded by very talented people, it's all very calculated. We employ a high calibre of staff, and this is essential as Michelin stars are achieved by consistency.”
Although he is now the only Michelin-starred chef in the province, he has expressed a desire to share this award with other local chefs.
“I would love to see more Michelin stars in Northern Ireland, but it can take 10 years to get to that level, and once you get it it's difficult to hold onto,” he said.
The chef explains the scrutiny a Michelin-starred establishment is put under.
“We have four or five inspections per year, and they're meticulous. “There can be four inspectors in the building at one time and we can be unaware of it.
“This means we have to be consistent all the time, and ultimately the food has to be of a certain standard.
“We are the best value restaurant of this calibre in the UK; £75-£100 for a Michelin-starred meal.
“We have tried to remove the stuffiness associated with the Guide, but we still have refinement in our food and service.
“I want Belfast to be a great city and provide great food to the public, who are more important than the guide because without them we would not be in it.
“Without Michelin we would be nowhere. It's international currency — when visitors see we have the star they obviously want to experience our food.”
Although he is the sole holder of the distinction in Northern Ireland, Deane does not believe this means we are behind the rest of the UK.
“Wales is also down to one star, and I think the Welsh are behind us in a way because they haven't had political unrest for 25 years,” he said.
“Now the political backlash is over, it's up to our chefs and the public, because if they demand a high quality of food then restaurants will provide it and then more stars will come.”
The Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2009, is released this Friday.