FISCHERS of Baslow Hall has lost its Michelin Star after 25 consecutive years. It’s the second time this decade that a North Derbyshire restaurant has tumbled from the guide.
Four years ago, in 2015, Tessa Bramley’s Old Vicarage at Ridgeway lost hers, an award held continuously since 1998.
Some may point to the departure of Baslow’s head chef Rupert Rowley earlier this year following changes at the country house, owned by Max (above right) and Susan Fischer, after almost 17 years at the helm but the Guide is as taciturn about its reasons for exclusion as it is about inclusion.
There was a bit of a fanfare locally about Fischers’ quarter century of glory so it is all the more bitter the star was lost this year.
I can claim to be the person who first told Max he had earned a star, quite out of the blue. One autumn day in 1994 I was at my desk at the Sheffield Star when I opened a Press release from Michelin to read of the award. These were the days, long gone, when the Guide never bothered to tell the recipients in advance.
Naturally I rang Max for a quote and to my surprise found he didn’t know. To my further surprise he also said, during the conversation, that “I suppose we shall get all those people coming wanting steak and strawberries,” referring to some (but not all) types of Guide groupies and box tickers.
I gently managed to persuade him to let me do a big interview later, pointing out that Baslow Hall was not your steak and strawberries kind of place. I haven’t got that interview to hand but recall asking him his favourite dish. It was something his mother used to make.
A few years later Max rang me with an idea. He was looking to groom a future replacement, ideally a local lad, who eventually would take a share in the business, enabling him to take a back seat. Could I put something in? Max had been long in the business, previously in Bakewell, some readers will remember.
One person who read that article was the father of Rupert Rowley (pictured below), who was then cooking away. He had a cv to die for, having worked for Raymond Blanc, John Burton Race and Gordon Ramsay. He sent the cutting to his son.
The upshot was that Rupert joined as sous in 2002 and was made head chef the following year.
Much later the couple and Rupert bought a pub in the village and turned it into a restaurant, Rowleys. Rupert, now studying international hospitality management and working as a development chef, no longer has a stake in it. Nor is his name still on the pub sign; it has reverted to the previous name, the Prince of Wales.
The Old Vicarage was to join the Michelin stellar elite four years later, giving us two in the area. Ironically, now Baslow loses its star four years later.
Sadly, when I put down my fork and spoon eating for The Star some five years or so ago I also handed in my expense account, so have not eaten at either place recently so cannot comment on the merits of the Guide’s decision.
But there are fewer people who go around with a copy of Michelin than there are, say, the Good Food Guide or Hardens. let along the AA Guide and I fancy holding a star has more publicity value than anything.
Still, it is the ultimate accolade yet fatal to take it too seriously like French chef Bernard Loiseau who thought, wrongly, that he had lost one of his three stars at Le Cote d’Or in Burgundy. He shot himself. And yes I have eaten there, too, but that is another story . . .