IT is like a real life version of TV favourite Ready, Steady, Cook.
Two celebrity chefs will go head to head in the battle for the hearts and minds of diners in Hampshire.
Seafood champion Rick Stein has revealed he is to open a restaurant in Winchester – just a couple of hundred yards away from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new eaterie.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall collecting the keys for Abbey Mill from Winchester Mayor Eileen Berry
Mr Stein is taking on the High Street building vacated by Jamie Oliver’s Union Jacks, which closed in January. It could open as soon as late October.
Meanwhile, Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall is close to opening his £1m restaurant at Abbey Mill in Colebrook Street, meaning the famous cooks will be rivals within weeks.
It will be Mr Stein’s first restaurant outside Cornwall, where he has a multi-million pound business empire including restaurants, a cafe, a deli, a gift shop, a hotel and a cookery school in the village of Padstow. He has proved a divisive figure with critics dubbing the place “Padstein”.
However, his plans for Winchester have been welcomed.
Hampshire County Council economy supremo Cllr Seán Woodward said: “It is fantastic to hear that Rick Stein has chosen Winchester as the location for his next restaurant. The city has for many years been highly regarded for its food offering, as home to Europe’s biggest farmers’ market and many unique and high quality restaurants and eateries.
“The Rick Stein restaurant will be a really welcome addition to this, attracting people from far and wide to the city and wider Hampshire county.”
Cllr Sean Woodward
Mr Stein added: “I love Winchester. It’s steeped in heritage, with beautiful architecture and seems to have a love of great food. Our new restaurant is about fresh fish, simply cooked. This is a big and exciting move for us, our first outside Cornwall, and we can’t wait to bring our passion for seafood to Winchester.”
Winchester has been home to other celebrity chefs including Raymond Blanc, who has a restaurant and café.
However it has not always proved a gold mine for famous foodies. In addition to the closure of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, James Martin, a former head chef when Hotel du Vin opened in 1994, owned a deli in The Square which closed in 2012.