When the Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland 2020 was released this week there was much made about a record number of stars announced in what is a difficult time for small businesses in the British Isles.
What took many by surprise was the fact that three Michelin star Araki, a sushi restaurant that serves an omakase for £310 per head, in London’s Mayfair, lost not one or two but all three of its hard-earned stars.
It was quite the spectacular fall from grace, albeit not entirely unforeseen, the restaurant's chef and owner Mitsuhiro Araki, had decided to return to London and had passed the reins to his protégé Marty Lau. Lau had worked with Araki since 2015 and is widely respected.
Lau told CNN that it was "a shame" to have been deleted from the 2020 guide. "But we take it as a fair judgment and a fresh start following the departure of our master Mitsuhiro Araki," he said.
"We believed it placed Michelin in a difficult position to make a decision on how to score The Araki, as the master was here during half of the inspection period for 2020's guide."
The restaurant has not asked Michelin for an explanation, he said. "It's their guide, and we're in total respect of how they want to do it. I'm taking it on the chin and getting on with proving myself.
"Lots of chefs are devastated when they lose stars, but you'll get nowhere with that attitude. You have to dust yourself off and try again."
The change at the helm of the restaurant has not affected business and regular customers continue to patronise the restaurant.
"As important as Michelin is, we will always put the guests who come to The Araki above all else. At the end of the day, they will be the ones to judge us and decide our fate.
"What we hope the public understands that Master Araki has left the sushi-ya to the team that has followed him since the beginning. He is resolute in taking this situation as a great opportunity for us to earn our own accolades in our own light and not in his shadow.”
Lau has been with the restaurant since the early days and learned a lot from Araki
"Everything is done in the style of how he taught me,” he says.
“When he arrived in London he had to get used to new ingredients so there was a constant evolution for him, and we were part of that journey. All that ethos has been transferred to us. We're grateful for all the supportive messages our regular guests have sent us and we will continue to keep doing our best.”