Michelin-starred chef Kenny Atkinson has announced that he is to leave Seaham Hall at the end of this month.
Atkinson, who won the Hotel Chef of the Year (fewer than 250 covers) at the Hotel Cateys on Friday night, will move to Rockliffe Hall, a newly-created luxury hotel, golf and spa development in Hurworth, County Durham, in December.
The multi-million-pound development, owned by Middlesbrough Football Club chairman Steve Gibson, will be opening a new restaurant called Kenny Atkinson at the Orangery next month.
The 32-year-old chef commented: "Quite simply, I was blown away when I first saw Rockliffe Hall. The attention to detail here is staggering. The place and its people are demanding the very best. It was a challenge I simply could not resist once they suggested my name could be above the door or the restaurant here."
Atkinson, who shot to fame this year after successfully winning through to the final of BBC2's Great British Menu, where he won the right to cook for the British armed forces returning from Afganistan, will be in charge of the 70-cover restaurant which will include a chef's table for 8-10 people. Chef Martin Moore will be responsible for foodservice throughout the rest of the property.
Rockliffe Hall opened its golf course this summer, while the hotel operation, including a new spa and wellness centre, opens on 23 November. The development has been created from the remains of a disused 18th-century country hall and is led by managing director Nick Holmes.
Holmes said: "Kenny is a chef at the top of his game right now and we are thrilled to have him here at Rockliffe Hall. To secure a Michelin star not just once, but twice, is a feat bettered by few chefs the world over. His performance on Great British Menu backed up his growing reputation as one of the new stars of British cooking."
Atkinson took on his first head chef position when he returned to the Greenway Hotel in 2003, a post he remained in for nearly three years, winning three AA rosettes.
He then moved to St Martin's on the Isles of Scilly in 2006, when he was appointed executive head chef of St Martin's on the Isle. During his stay on the island, the hotel was named Cornwall restaurant of the year by the Good Food Guide
He said that he would continue to fly the flag for local North-east produce at Rockliffe Hall and his first step would be to try to secure three rosettes before "hopefully, being recognised by Michelin again".
"Kenny's decision to take up the opportunity presented to him has naturally saddened us at Von Essen and Seaham Hall but we wish him well for the future," said a spokeswoman for Seaham Hall.
"The team at Seaham are committed to building on his excellent ground work to ensure Seaham Hall maintains its reputation as the premier 5 star destination in the North East."
Menuwatch - Seaham Hall >>
By Amanda Afiya
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