Steve Barringer, former head chef at Flitwick Manor hotel in Bedfordshire and BBC MasterChef: The Professionals 2011 finalist, is to open a gastropub named the Anchor, also in Bedfordshire.
Expected to open on 24 February, the 40-cover site is a Greene King-tied property in the village of Tilsworth, and has previously been run as a pub. The chef is to completely re-design the menu from scratch and has revamped the kitchen.
A joint project between Barringer and his girlfriend Amy Watson, the venture has received extra financial backing from the couple's wider family, and has so far has been budgeted to cost £50,000 including the new kitchen and items such as new crockery and glassware. The main pub design will initially stay as it is, having been renovated by Greene King just one year ago.
There is a separate bar area, a dining space and a large garden, and visitors will be encouraged to come for a few drinks and snacks, as well as full meals. The chef will also seek to grow fruit and vegetables, and will look to grow the site organically as money and time allows.
The kitchen will have two other staff, but Barringer intends to build the brigade with young, hungry-to-learn chefs, including some who may still be at college. Scott Barnard, sous-chef at Colette's at the Grove in Hertfordshire, finalist on the latest series of MasterChef: The Professionals and a good friend of Barringer, is also set to come and do some pop-up cooking sessions at the new place.
Typical dishes are expected to include pub food classics with extra touches, such as a take on fish and chips, which is set to combine a good quality piece of cod with hot tartare sauce, beer batter scraps, and dripping-cooked chips.
Barringer had been seeking a site in either Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire or Buckinghamshire, and told The Caterer that he chose the property thanks to his familiarity with the area, and good working relationship with Greene King. Barringer joined the four-star, 18-bedroom Menzies Hotels group's Flitwick Manor in 2014 as head chef, and left in June 2015 to dedicate time to this new project.
He would like to achieve AA Rosettes in future, he said, but would initially be focusing on building up the business successfully.
He told The Caterer: "This place just felt right, and the potential of it is massive. For Amy and me, it's a family thing; it's about building our future. Now is the right time; I want somewhere of my own, the whole package. I want people to come into the place and feel our personalities."
He said that being a finalist on MasterChef had been good publicity and had encouraged people to come to eat his food, but said that it was still paramount to "deliver when people actually do come".