The former head chef of the pub run by Jane and Jeremy Hooper, winners of Raymond Blanc's TV series The Restaurant, has claimed the couple were treated "appallingly" after it emerged that they had quit the business.
The Hoopers, who were victorious in the first series of the BBC2 show, left Eight at the Thatch in Thame, Oxfordshire, after just seven months running the food-led pub. Caterer Adopted Business Peach Pub Company, which secured the lease on the property, will now run the pub under a new name, the Thatch.
Christian Cillia, who was sacked by Peach as head chef just before the Hoopers announced their departure, said the news left a bitter taste.
"The Hoopers have left the restaurant, the whole set-up has been flawed since day one and they have been treated quite appallingly," he told Caterer.
Cillia, formerly head chef and general manager of the Brasserie St Nicholas in Sevenoaks, Kent, joined the business in January to support the Hoopers but was sacked on 23 April. "I moved up to Oxford for the job, leaving my girlfriend in Kent, renting a flat and putting me under quite a lot of pressure," he said. "I am stuck in Oxford now and I am looking for work."
The Hoopers, who now plan to launch their own restaurant business, said they were "disappointed" that Eight at the Thatch had not worked out. They added that they felt that they "did not have the chance to make the concept work in the environment of a pub".
Blanc insisted that the whole process had been positive. "Jeremy and Jane worked very hard to make a success of Eight at the Thatch," he said. "I am happy that we were able to give them this chance and delighted that they have gained the experience and the confidence to start a new business."
Auditions for the next series of The Restaurant took place in March and April.
By Christopher Walton
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Published by: The Caterer