Michelin star chef: We made a little bit of history in Estonia
Last month two Estonian restaurants were awarded Michelin stars — the first in Estonia. ERR News spoke with 180 Degrees' head chef Matthias Diether about the award, working in Estonia and why the hospitality industry.
This isn't Diether's first Michelin star. Or even his second. It's his ninth.
But the chef resolutely denies this makes his latest award any less important when asked by ERR News.
"It is special now because this time is completely different, Estonia never had a Michelin star before, the Michelin Guide was never here. The hype is higher, the pressure is higher," he said earlier this month in an interview in his restaurant.
He was also never in any doubt the award would come his way again, though. "We work to our standards every day, we were sure that we would get it," he said. "We made a little bit of history in Estonia"
And the prize has already made a mark on Estonia's restaurant scene. Diether said following the announcement between 160-180 reservations were made at his restaurant overnight.
"It was completely fully booked until the end of July," he said. Where did they come from? "From everywhere. We felt it immediately the day after."
Good news is needed in the hospitality industry following two difficult years battling the pandemic.
"It is a very good thing that Michelin is now in Estonia. It gives a touch of excitement and passion and everyone wants the Michelin [star] now and it is very good for competition," he explained.
Diether, who is German, moved to Estonia six years ago looking to get away from the stresses of Berlin having lived in the city for almost a decade. He arrived on the island of Muhu - population 1,800 - in western Estonia in January 2016 and spent three years at Pädaste Manor before opening 180 Degrees in Tallinn.
He's worked around the world in kitchens in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Scotland, Germany and London but his career, he said, has always alternated between being in the city and the countryside.
"For me, at this time, it was just very important to step outside of Berlin and to go a little bit more into nature. I was actually very lucky to get a call from Estonia to come over. I'm very happy, for me, here, I can relax. It is not too stressful," he said speaking about his decision to move to the region. He is the first Michelin-starred chef to have worked in Estonia.
Diether emphasizes the Michelin Star was a team effort. The staff is close-knit and many have worked with Diether since the restaurant opened in 2018.
"I say it's like a Swatch watch, everything needs to work together to make it successful," he says.
When asked how easy it is to find hospitality workers in Estonia, a notoriously difficult industry in this country, Diether said it has been "very hard."
"What is important in Estonia is connections, to have very good connections around here and some of my staff have worked here for three years," he suggested.
The restaurant has a fully international team, with staff members from Iran, India, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Ukraine, UK, Italy, Argentina and, of course, Estonia. The working language is English.
There is hope Estonia's inclusion in the Michelin Guide might increase the attractiveness of the industry again.
"So many people left the hospitality industry after corona, so we just hope with the Guide all the guys will come back, hospitality is a fantastic industry," the chef said.
180 Degrees and Noa Chef's Hall were awarded Michelin Stars last month. This is the first time Estonian restaurants have been included in the world-famous award. See the list of winners here.
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Editor: Helen Wright