ONE of Britain’s leading gourmet chefs is leaving his job with a flagship North East leisure resort.
Double Michelin-starred Kenny Atkinson and AA-rated, five-star hotel, golf and spa resort Rockliffe Hall in County Durham have agreed to part company, it was announced yesterday.
Mr Atkinson is leaving his post as director of food at Rockliffe Hall, which he has held since the award-winning facility opened in November 2009.
The parting of the ways is said to be a mutual decision, and comes as the hotel’s triple AA Rosette Orangery restaurant re-opens with longer opening hours, including a lunch menu, following a £150,000 refurbishment scheme. Mr Atkinson – who was part of the 2009 opening team responsible for the hotel’s three restaurants and banqueting facilities – now plans to explore a number of new opportunities.
It is said he will return to Rockliffe Hall throughout the next year for a number of special events and cookery demonstrations.
Newcastle-born Mr Atkinson, 35, rejected a number of high-profile job offers in London and abroad to take up his post at the luxurious new resort, which is set in 375 acres on the banks of the River Tees outside Hurworth near Darlington.
He moved to the multi-million pound hotel from his previous position at The White Room at Seaham Hall, which was then the region’s only five-star hotel.
Mr Atkinson shot to fame in 2009 after winning the BBC’s Great British Menu television series.
He was later named chef of the year at The Cateys, the catering industry’s most fiercely competitive awards.
Yesterday he said: “It has been challenging and very rewarding establishing three very different restaurants at Rockliffe Hall. I’m very proud of the team and what we have achieved in the past four years throughout the resort.
“Rockliffe Hall is a special place, and I wish the team all the success for the future, but it’s now time for a new challenge.”
Rockliffe Hall managing director Nick Holmes said: “This amicable decision comes as we revamp our restaurants, including a slightly more relaxed feel to the award-winning Orangery, recently re-launched with a more extensive à la carte menu.
“Kenny has been a tremendous asset to the management team and has been instrumental in attracting and developing an outstanding team of chefs.
“However, all restaurants, including the Orangery, have always been managed by their own, very talented head chefs, and this will not change.
“We’re looking forward to still working on a number of special projects with Kenny in the forthcoming months and wish him well.”
Earlier this year Rockliffe Hall won a gold award for business tourism in the North East Tourism Awards and was named in the UK’s top 25 luxury hotels in TripAdvisor’s travellers’ choice awards.
Last year it was the winner of Large Hotel of the Year 2012 at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence.
It has three restaurants, The Orangery in the 18th Century Old Hall, The Brasserie, offering relaxed lunch and evening dining, and The Clubhouse, with its views across the resort’s 18-hole championship golf course.