The Untold Truth Of The Youngest Chef To Earn A Michelin Star

The Michelin stars have long been the gold standard of culinary finesse. Many top-level chefs have put in countless hours of effort to earn even one star, let alone the ever-elusive three – the seal of quality for the best of the best. As one can expect, it's pretty arduous business, and some chefs have even decided to return their Michelin stars because they feel they're far too demanding to maintain. Even so, losing a Michelin star can be dangerous, because it may very well drive the business away, as well.

It's a cruel world, being a top chef who was just awarded their first star. So, imagine how cruel it is when you're little more than a kid. Today, we'll take a look at how Chef Aidan Byrne earned a Michelin star at the tender age of 22 (via the BBC), and how he's fared since then. Here's the untold truth of the youngest chef to earn a Michelin star.

Aiden Byrne found cooking almost accidentally

Since Aiden Byrne joined the prestigious club of Michelin-starred chefs at such an early age, it's probably no surprise that he was something of a cooking prodigy. However, in an interview with The Foxley Docket, the esteemed chef reveals that he actually entered the culinary world largely by accident. "It's a bit of a strange one!" the chef said. "When I was a young lad, about 12 or 13, I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do – I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my career, or the rest of my life." While it's easy to imagine someone like Byrne picking up the ladle nigh-immediately after speaking his first word – which would, of course, be "Fromage" or something like that – the chef fully admits that he stumbled upon his future career purely by chance. "I was very fortunate that I chose one particular subject in school, which was catering," Byrne said. "As soon as I walked into that classroom, I was completely comfortable, that this was where I wanted to be." 

Back in Byrne's day, it was quite uncommon for a young boy to enter the world of cuisine like that, so he ended up being the only boy in the 30-strong class and was bullied for his choice. Nevertheless, he persevered because he knew he'd found his passion.

The star and how it came to be

The road to a Michelin star is usually a long and arduous one, though Aiden Byrne's path considerably shorter than most. Per Lime Management, his first gig as a professional was at a small hotel kitchen during his college years, and after finishing his education, he started earning his chops at London's Royal Garden Hotel. According to the BBC, this was the only option Byrne saw for himself, seeing as the man himself fully admits that cooking's pretty much the only thing he's good at.  

Byrne soon moved from hotels to actual Michelin restaurants around the U.K., and eventually found himself at Adlards Restaurant in Norwich. Reportedly, the young man one day opined that whenever the "boss" wasn't present in the establishment, the food quality seemed to go down. He was promptly appointed Head Chef of Adlards, which turned out to be an incredibly good move. Byrne's elaborate cuisine earned the establishment a Michelin star after just six months. 

Aiden Byrne likes to play nice in the kitchen

It's easy to imagine that all British chefs share the intimidating air of Gordon Ramsay, but Aiden Byrne couldn't care less about playing tough. In 2018, he even told The Manchester Evening News that his new restaurant in Manchester, 20 Stories, offered the staff a shift system that effectively gives them a three-and-a-half-day work week, in an effort to shake things up. "As a young chef growing up, that was completely unheard of," he noted. "We have to offer that work life balance – and rightly so. We were abused – or our desire to succeed was abused – by making us work 80- 90 hours a week, if not more. We used to go into work at 6 o'clock on a Monday morning, and quite literally come out of work on a Sunday morning."

While Byrne is quick to note that the outlandish work schedules of the past were simply something you had to endure in order to make it in the business, he's told The Square Meal that he's more than prepared to do his part to change the attitudes in the kitchen for the better. "I'm always adamant that we have a friendly kitchen," he said while discussing his then-new restaurant, Manchester House. "I have worked in some really nasty hardcore places, and I don't want Manchester House to be one of them."

Aiden Byrne's doesn't like to name his culinary influences, but admires many chefs

Some professionals are quick to rattle off a list of influences when asked, but while Aiden Byrne does admit to drawing inspiration from other culinary greats, he seems to prefer keeping things pretty vague. "I have taken influences from a number of people throughout my life because when you sacrifice so much for a career that demands so much, you need continuous moral support," he told The Great British Life. However, when it comes to the chefs he admires, he'll happily give you a name or two. "I worked for Tom Aikens at Pied à Terre and was his head chef when he opened Tom Aikens," Byrne revealed to SquareMeal. "I was at my lowest because of how hard we were working, but I wouldn't have wanted to be standing next to anyone else. I [also] look to Marcus Wareing for advice; he's been fantastic."

In an interview with The Foxley Docket, Byrne has also noted that he has plenty of love for the famously experimental chef Heston Blumenthal (pictured), though he refrains from listing him as an influence. "My inspiration in cooking came long before Heston was being as adventurous as he's being now," Byrne said. "I just admire him, I'm very proud of the fact that he cooks and owns restaurants on our shores. I think most of the people should appreciate that and respect that, really."

Aiden Byrne made a big lockdown decision

The Covid-19 pandemic hit the restaurant and hospitality industry hard, but as Big Hospitality tells us, Aiden Byrne took these unprecedented circumstances to embark on a whole new, unexpected adventure – or, rather, an updated version of an old and much-loved one. One of Byrne's restaurants had already closed during the pandemic, and he also pulled out of an enterprising new venture to open a new restaurant and an adjoining pub as part of a new real estate project. In fact, Byrne decided to quit each and every one of his business ventures ... except for one.

Per Manchester Confidentials, the chef has decided to focus exclusively on The Church Green, a pub that he and his wife, Sarah, have operated in Lymm, U.K., for over a decade. Byrne says that the idea started when he was making a few pies for the neighborhood during lockdown, and somehow, the thing escalated into a full-on deli. "I was making pies for my [neighbors] and I put it on Facebook and practically the whole of Lymm asked for them. So we thought, do you know what? We've got a disused garage connected to The Church Green, so we've completely gutted that and we're going to turn it into a delicatessen where I can sell all my charcuterie." The more he and Sarah thought about it, the more sense it made to scale back and go all-in with the cozy pub.