The First Day I Got My Michelin Stars: Alexandre Dionisio of La Villa in the Sky

We get the world's most celebrated chefs to recall what it was like when they got their very first Michelin stars.

Alexandre Dionisio is no stranger to the culinary scene in Belgium. The Brussels-native has trained under the wing of some of the city’s top chefs, learning the basics from Rocky Renaud at Le Passage, the art of meats and sauces from Pierre Wynants at two Michelin-starred Comme Chez Soi, and all about seafood from Yves Mattagne at the two-starred Sea Grill.

His claim to fame shot up when he took part in Top Chef, where he made it through to the semi-finals. Dionisio opened his own restaurant, Alexandre, shortly after. The (now closed) restaurant was awarded one Michelin star just six months into its opening.

In 2014, Dionisio moved on to assume the role of head chef at La Villa in the Sky, a restaurant nearly 400 feet up in the air and boasting beautiful views of Brussels. La Villa in the Sky currently holds two Michelin stars in the 2018 guide. Dionisio himself has been described in the red guide by Michelin inspectors as a “young sparkling chef.”

Here, we sit with him to find out more.

READ MORE: 2018 MICHELIN Guide Belgium & Luxembourg Results

Wagyu tenderloin with candied chicory, creamy beet and potatoes soufflé bigarade sauce.
Wagyu tenderloin with candied chicory, creamy beet and potatoes soufflé bigarade sauce.

When was your first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide?
Six months after I opened my first restaurant, Alexandre, when we were awarded with a Michelin star. I was just 28 years old then. It felt amazing.

What were your thoughts when La Villa in the Sky received two stars?
It was a real surprise, because my wife had also told me she was pregnant at the same time so it was double good news. I was very happy when we got the first star for La Villa in the Sky in 2014, and to get a second star one year later felt even better.

Did anything change in the restaurant after it received two Michelin stars?
Yes, there was a change. I noticed it from day one, after the news was out. Media become more interested in the restaurant, and it motivated me to keep going and to get better. In order for you to keep the first star, you have to aim for the second Michelin star. And when you have the second star, aim for the third. That’s what fuels my engine.

King crab with shrimp consommé jelly, Russian caviar and zest of lime.
King crab with shrimp consommé jelly, Russian caviar and zest of lime.

What was the first thing you did when you found out La Villa got a star?
I was at a café in Brussels when I got the call. And I was looking at the newspapers, which had [news of the MICHELIN guide results] in it already. Then when I got to the restaurant the press was already there and I got to share the good news with the team. My team had arrived just before the press arrived, so my staff was in the restaurant and had no idea why everyone was outside! When I came in, they were working on the mise en place (laughs). I told them the good news and we opened some Champagne.

What advice do you have for young chefs aiming for Michelin stars?
Believe in yourselves. Keep fighting. Make sure every guest leaves with a good memory of the food.

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