Overall ranking: 59
Restaurateurs ranking: 18
Paul Heathcote is a Michelin-starred chef-proprietor who has grown into a successful catering entrepreneur. A champion of British regional cuisine, Heathcote has built up a diverse empire in the north-west of England.
Along with his Michelin-starred restaurant in Longridge near Preston, Heathcote's empire comprises four Simply Heathcote brasseries (in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Wrightington) four Olive Press Pizzeria, Bar and Grills (in Preston, Manchester, Liverpool and Warrington) and the Winckley Square Chop House and Bar. Heathcote has also set up a thriving outside catering arm and a cookery school in Manchester.
At the age of 29, in 1990, Heathcote took the plunge and opened his first, eponymous restaurant at Longridge in Preston, which won its second Michelin star in 1994 and was renamed Longridge in 2003. In 1995, he launched the first Simply Heathcotes (then called Heathcotes Brasserie and now the Winckley Square Chop House and Bar) in Preston and its basement became the first Olive Press restaurant in 2002.
In 1997, Heathcote added two new strings to his bow, setting up his sports and events catering arm Heathcotes Outside and launching the Paul Heathcote School of Excellence in Manchester.
What we think
Heathcote has flown the flag for regional British cuisine all the way into the pages of the Michelin Guide - yet Heathcote's was an against-the-odds success story.
He took a huge risk when he sold his house and took out a £30,000 overdraft to open his first restaurant in the gastronomic desert of Lancashire at a time when interest rates had soared to a recessionary peak of 18%. Heathcote nearly went bust twice but his flair, business acumen and staying power prevailed.
In 1994 Heathcote took the Egon Ronay Chef of the Year award and the restaurant became the North's only holder of two Michelin stars. Although Heathcote gradually dropped these stars, he regained one-star status in 2004 despite having simplified the menu and cut prices at the renamed Longridge restaurant.
In 1995 he took his cuisine to the middle market when he opened, in Preston, the first of what became the Simply Heathcote chain of brasseries which also won critical acclaim.
Heathcote was also one of the first high-profile chefs to recognise the potential of sports catering. Heathcotes Outside, the catering firm he created in partnership with Gary Bates (his head chef at the Preston brasserie), is forecast to turn over between £13m and £16m this year.
This year Heathcote will focus on the Olive Press chain of Mediterranean family restaurants which, he says, are easier and cheaper to open and his most profitable brand. New openings planned for Bolton, Knutsford, Alderley Edge and, possibly, Chester, should bump the chain up to 11 branches by February 2006.