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Chef Andy McLeish buys Chapter One restaurant

01 September 2017 by
Chef Andy McLeish buys Chapter One restaurant

Chef Andy McLeish and two business partners have bought Chapter One restaurant in Locksbottom, Kent, from financier Ken Sanker.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, completed last month and sees McLeish back in the kitchen at Chapter One full time.

McLeish's business partner Marcel Faulstich will run the business, while Ekrem Hassan is a silent partner. The trio raised finance from NatWest in order to fund the deal.

The news coincides with Sanker's sale of Chapter One's sister restaurant Chapters in Blackheath, London, to Richard Caring's Ivy Collection. The site is due to be converted into an Ivy Cafe.

Speaking about the deal, McLeish, who has worked at Chapter One for 17 years, said: "I became a little despondent about running all the other restaurants under Selective Restaurants. My ambition and my cooking essence dwindled a little bit. I was away in January this year and something snapped in my mind and I thought I don't want to work for anyone else anymore, I want to do it 100% my way."

After speaking to his long-time friend Faulstich, who has a background in banking, the pair decided to make Sanker an offer for Chapter One.

Sanker had already been in the process of selling the restaurant to another party but still listened to McLeish's offer. "I think Ken was a bit conflicted and I put him in a difficult situation and I recognise that but 17 years here meant that Ken respected me seriously enough as a buyer," McLeish said.

Speaking about the atmosphere in the restaurant since completing the deal, he said: "It is fantastic and the best thing is that there is a new influx of energy here. There is new energy from me because this is my only restaurant now and Marcel has a huge amount of energy on the floor.

"It's very nice. I am back in the kitchen seven days a week like the old days. I think even my wife has noticed the change in my mood because there is nothing more frustrating than sitting in meetings talking about things that you have no control over."

He said he recognised that Chapter One needed a more modern approach and that he would work to make the brasserie side of the business more prominent, with a possible extension to the side of the restaurant in the offing.

Head chef Dean Ferguson remains on board, as does the rest of the team, and McLeish said he and Ferguson were discussing changing the menu much more frequently in a bid to tempt guests back with more variety and quality.

"If you look at my guests' comments they say it's very good but we need to change the menu more often because they are bored of eating the same piece of fish or the same piece of pork belly - they want variety," he said.

He is currently working with Design LSM to redesign the menus and will introduce further changes gradually.

Chapter One held a Michelin star for several years until losing it in the 2015 guide. Asked if he would like to regain it, McLeish said: "Honestly, I don't know. I would say no because part of the good thing about where we are now is I can put something on the menu and I don't have to worry about whether or not it ticks the boxes of AA and Michelin. I just think that's a fantastic piece of turbot or a great garnish and I can go with it.

"The restaurant in London I most respect is Chez Bruce because he is consistent in what he does but they don't hold back on anything. If it's a nice simple tart they will call it that and the quality will speak for itself. You get a bit nervous as a chef sometimes because you think I have got that right now let's roll it out and you keep it for six months and then before you know it has been on the menu for a year.

"There are good things to be heard from Chapter One now. Yes, I have been here 17 years and yes I think we all admit we have become a little bit stale but now we can push forwards and put all of our experience into one business and all 45 staff here seem to be taking that on board as well and welcoming any changes we have made."

Chefs Behind The Chefs: Andrew McLeish and Dean Ferguson >>

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