People 3 minutes 15 February 2024

Meet Three of Our New Two Michelin Star Chefs

We chat to Aktar Islam, Vincent Crepel and Jonny Lake about their Two Star achievements

Being awarded Two Michelin Stars is a huge moment for any restaurant and a signifier that your cooking is among the very best in the country. At The MICHELIN Guide Ceremony 2024, we were delighted to announce six new members of our Two Michelin Star family: Brooklands, Gymkhana, Opheem, Terre, The Glenturret Lalique and Trivet. After the Ceremony, we were fortunate enough to catch up with a few of the Chefs from these illustrious restaurants.

Aktar Islam – Opheem, Birmingham

Aktar Islam on stage after Opheem won Two Michelin Stars
Aktar Islam on stage after Opheem won Two Michelin Stars

When Aktar Islam’s Opheem won Two Michelin Stars, it wasn’t just a victory for himself and his team – it was for Birmingham. In the room to witness Aktar’s triumph were fellow Starred chefs from the city including Glynn Purnell, Luke Tipping and Adam Stokes, making the moment all the sweeter. “In 2004 me and Glynn had this vision that we wanted to change the perception of Birmingham as a city, from being somewhere that’s almost like a gastronomic desert to a beacon for UK gastronomy outside of London,” Aktar says. We think it’s safe to say he’s achieved his goal.

Opheem’s Two Star award is all the more significant for it becoming the joint-first Indian restaurant to receive Two Michelin Stars, along with Gymkhana. Aktar’s version of the cuisine is decidedly creative, putting a spin on Indian cooking to create “a culinary journey of our own”. “We celebrate seasonal British produce, which we then marry with influences from the Indian subcontinent,” he says. “There are flavours that you might find familiar, but put to you in a very, very different way.”

Turning Opheem into a landmark for both British Indian cuisine and for Birmingham is a huge achievement – and hasn’t come without considerable graft from Aktar and the team. “The biggest lesson for me is that hard work makes everything happen,” he says. “It's not just hard work on your own, it's hard work from every single person that's involved in your kitchen, your front of house – everyone. I always say to the young kids who work with me: the best gift you can ever give to yourself is an honest day's work, because you will progress. If you can be honest with yourself, work hard and be better every day, you will achieve incredible things. I got kicked out school at 13, I've got no education and here I am.” Here he is, Birmingham’s culinary hero.

Vincent Crepel – Terre, Castlemartyr

Vincent Crepel (left) celebrates his Two Michelin Stars
Vincent Crepel (left) celebrates his Two Michelin Stars

It’s been quite the couple of years for Terre and its Chef-Owner Vincent Crepel. Last year, the restaurant – nestled inside the beautiful Castlemartyr Resort – was awarded its first Michelin Star. Rather than glorying in their success, Vincent and the team have instead built on it, striving for an even higher accolade – and on Monday 5th February, they received it. Being awarded Two Michelin Stars places Terre within a small group of truly elite restaurants in Ireland.

The accolade left Vincent feeling “overwhelmed” and immensely proud of his team and of Ireland, where the French-born Chef has made a home for himself in County Cork. “I hope we send a message,” he says. “This is a massive achievement for a business like us. We’re very proud of it, we’re very grateful and we’re very happy to have people who support us.” Many of these supporters, he tells us, are local diners – and it’s the local area that informs a lot of the experience at Terre. While there are global influences across the immersive dining experience, including several from Japan, Ireland and its producers are ever-present.

That’s not just limited to the food either. “We build our project around the local people as much as we can,” Vincent explains. They collaborate not just with growers and farmers, but with carpenters too, and elements including the tables, chairs, knives and cutlery are locally made. With such great success in such a short period of time, Vincent seems proud to be working in Ireland, and we’re sure Ireland is proud to have him.

Jonny Lake & Isa Bal – Trivet, London

Jonny Lake receives his Two Star chef's jacket
Jonny Lake receives his Two Star chef's jacket

“I don’t think we actually make any effort to work together, it just happens – and we are very lucky in that.” So says Isa Bal, the Sommelier-Owner of Trivet, about his relationship with Chef-Owner Jonny Lake. Their partnership has spanned nearly two decades, from when they joined The Fat Duck within two weeks of each other to today, when they are proud holders of Two Michelin Stars at their own restaurant.

Their collaboration is key to what makes Trivet feel special. Not only is the restaurant’s wine list exceptional, but the dialogue between Chef and Sommelier is constant. “When Jonny is working on new dishes, I am involved,” Isa says. “There can be parts of dishes that are, let’s say, less friendly to wine – and I point them out to him.” Jonny, for his part, sees Isa as a crucial sounding board for his new ideas. “Getting different perspectives is what makes it special,” he says. Those perspectives don’t come just from each other, but their customers too. “There are customers that have been there right from the beginning,” Isa says. “So when we’re trying out new things, we let them try first and get their feedback. I think that’s invaluable, because at the end of the day, you cook your food for them.”

Keeping the customer experience front and centre is key at Trivet, which Jonny describes as “a combination of destination restaurant and neighbourhood restaurant”. It’s reflected in the “unintimidating, comfortable and warm atmosphere” the pair create; Trivet eschews the trend for lengthy tasting menus and serves an à la carte only. As Jonny says, “We just want people to come, have a few courses of great food, some really nice wine to go with it, have a great time and then go home – then come back again!” And with cooking of this quality, we’re confident they will.

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The MICHELIN Guide Great Britain & Ireland is published in digital format, both on our website (UK/Republic of Ireland) and via the iOS and Android apps.


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