As piping hot bowls of ramen and plates of freshly made gyoza whizz past us at Mikaku on Queen Street, the restaurant’s new executive chef makes a bold claim.

He won’t be happy until his next project brings ‘at least a couple’ of new Michelin stars to Glasgow.

It’s not a statement that’s made lightly and, as the conversation flows from his years spent training in gruelling French kitchens to five-star London hotels, it soon becomes clear that Stephen Donnelly could just stand it up.

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His career has seen him cook for three presidents, achieve two Michelin stars (with a third narrowly missed after an unfortunate incident involving a few droplets of red wine) and honour the memory of his pastry chef Grandmother.

More incredible still, we learn that none of it would have happened without a simple letter to his TV idol.

He said: “As a young teenager, I wasn’t interested in school and only wanted to get into cooking.

“One day during the mid-80s, Floyd on Fish came on the TV while we were watching I told my dad it was exactly what I wanted to be doing.

“He said I should try writing a letter to Keith Floyd, so I did exactly that.

“I still have the menu he me sent back from his restaurant in Bristol with a list of places to contact for a job.

“We kept in touch and remained friends right up until his death.”

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At the age of just 16 years old, Stephen found himself leaving his contemporaries in Scotland, most of whom had accepted trade apprenticeships and were now earning a decent wage, to move to France.

Despite some moments of doubt as he tackled long hours for comparatively measly pay, his time working under one of the world’s most revered chefs soon would prove to be the catalyst for a life full of his own remarkable achievements.

Stephen said: “I ended up in Paris with Paul Bocuse, a man who was voted Chef of the Century, so right from day one my training was Michelin star level.

“It wasn’t all smooth sailing, and I spent a lot of time on the phone with my family telling them I was sick of it until my gran told me to stop moaning and get on with it.

“Paul used to have me chop vegetables into tiny cubes for a stock each week and every time I questioned why it had to be done.

“It wasn’t until later that I realised it was all about discipline.

“If you’re putting that much effort into a stock, then think about what you’re going to be able to do with a sauce.

“I’m a firm believer that integrity is all about the things you do when no one is watching, and that’s something I learned from my French background.”

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Bocuse later encouraged Stephen to return to the UK with a promise that he would save a spot in his kitchen for him if he should succeed in securing a qualification.

The 52-year-old remembers his time at the Eastbourne College of Arts and Technology less than favourably with convenience ingredients like powdered custard and cornflour serving as a stark contrast to the fresh produce he had come to know in France.

Not a spare minute after receiving his certificate, Stephen made the journey back to Paris and continued to work under Bocuse until he ‘outgrew the role’ and moved to a restaurant in a small village just outside of Bordeaux.

It was there his own quest for Michelin stardom began.

He said: “I worked tirelessly to earn my two Michelin stars and retained them for six years.

“It’s difficult to achieve a star, but I can’t begin to explain the levels of stress and pressure that come from trying to hold on to them.

“We went for a third but missed out because a waiter had spilt droplets of red wine on the tablecloth.

“I still remember opening the letter telling me we would have been awarded the star if it hadn’t been for the front-of-house mistake.

“I had a few choice words that day, I can tell you that much.”

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After spending his most recent years at a scattering of restaurants across the UK, Stephen last month joined the team at Mikaku in a move that has allowed him full creative control of his menu.

But, it’s talk of an upcoming, top-secret project that really seems to ignite a spark in the chef’s eyes.

He said: “We’re keeping tight-lipped for now, but our next venture is going to be unlike anything Glasgow has ever seen before.

“We’re already looking at a property and I’ve started planning a menu, which has a really great twist to it.

“I’m hoping it will add to the city’s Michelin stars.

“I’m very ambitious and wouldn’t be happy with one.

“It needs to be a couple.

Until his secrets are revealed, Stephen is hard at work ‘ripping up the recipe book’ at Mikaku in favour of a Japanese and French fusion menu that will be launched this summer.

An in-house prep kitchen allows his team to prepare all of their own noodles and gyoza fresh while talks are in place to secure a stock of Japanese products unavailable anywhere else in the city.

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With plenty of new challenges ahead, we ask if Stephen ever looks back to sending that all-important letter years ago.

He said: “Sometimes I do try to imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t taken the chance to send that letter.

“I was so young and naïve at the time but since then it’s been a great journey full of amazing people.

“I’m glad to be back in Scotland and preparing to knock it out of the park with the new project.

“I really do owe a lot to Keith Floyd.”