Mickael Viljanen came to Ireland in 2000 and worked with Paul Flynn at the Tannery before spending five years at Gregan’s Castle. He moved to the Greenhouse in 2012, where he won his first Michelin star, in 2015, and a second star in 2019. Over the years, he has travelled extensively, to Hong Kong, Scandinavia, the UK, and beyond, and he is a chef ambassador for the Krug champagne house.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in July of 2021.
How did the Chapter One idea come about? Why did you think it was time to change from the Greenhouse?
“I’ve been working for other people for the last 20 years, and I really felt that now is the time to do my own thing. I don’t think I could have done it earlier, and if I don’t do it now, I may end up never doing it at all. The timing of this just feels right. Working with Ross will be a great way to ease myself into being chef patron for the first time. Learning with the best is always the best place to start.”
What are your plans for Chapter One?
“We are in the middle of a full refit of the restaurant. We will have 50 covers, plus private dining for ten guests. It will look quite different, but with even more comfort and space from there being slightly fewer covers. Food-wise, we’ll be building on what we’ve done so far. It will be the style that my customers know me for, and the ethos of Chapter One, but, for me, having a bigger kitchen and more space is liberating. It means we will have more choice on our dinner menus to start, which I hope everyone will look forward to.”
What do you think will happen in the Dublin restaurant scene in the next year?
Get a FREE Digital Subscription!Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
“I’d expect there will be an initial big surge, due to pent-up demand, although I’d imagine there could be a dip again next year. I do think the recovery will be quick, though, especially as international tourism and travel returns.”
What are the greatest challenges right now?
“Staffing is a huge challenge, and finding the right staff with the required skill sets. One of our priorities will be to invest in ongoing training. We have lots of work planned in this area, to ensure we have highly skilled personnel.”
What are the potential opportunities?
“If you are performing well and looking after your staff, the opportunities are limitless. A key for us is that there is continuous development and improvement – that every day we get better, every week we are better than the previous week. Pre-Covid, Ireland’s hospitality industry was continually improving, and there is huge potential for us as an island to become better known as a country to visit for great restaurants, known internationally for our dining and eating experiences.”
How was the last year and a half for you, personally?
“There was both good and bad to it, like with most of us. I’m used to working, so it was a shock to the system to be sitting at home. On the plus side, I’ve never seen my children as much, which was brilliant, but I really missed the work. I love and enjoy it. My work is more than work – my hobby and my work are the same thing – so going without it was very hard. I also missed eating out in other chefs’ restaurants myself, eating other people’s food, but I found more time to do other things, too, that I wouldn’t have otherwise done.”
What are you most excited about right now?
“I’m just really excited to get my head down in my Chapter One kitchen and start cooking again.”
What is your food inspiration?
“My food inspiration is as simple as the produce I have to work with. Outstanding produce inspires me, using the best-possible ingredients and doing what seems like minimal work to them, so that there are maybe only two or three elements on the plate, but that those elements just blow your mind. I’ve always said the best dishes are some of the most deceptively simple, and something that seems simple may have taken lots of work to get it there – to build layers of flavour, to really emphasise and enhance – but you have to first start with the best. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Read More: Hospitality Ireland Summer 2021: Read The Latest Issue Online!