MICHELIN-STARRED maestro Marco Pierre White will open his Steakhouse and Grill in Chester today.
The godfather of modern British cuisine will be in illustrious company with the long established success of Simon Radley at The Grosvenor and latest celebrity recruit Michael Caines whose signature restaurant Abode opens next month.
The gathering of Michelin-starred celebrities promises food heaven for Chester’s diners and comes as a marketing coup to a heritage city keen to boast about its coveted, multi-million pound food and drink industry.
Marco Pierre White, Britain’s first Rock’n’Roll chef, comes to a city that has been top of the hobs for 30 years. Chester’s dining circuit has seen lively, flamboyant and sophisticated dining balance by good family diners and humble eateries with wholesome local produce.
Harking back to the heady wine bar days of the early 80s when the trendy place to be seen was Pierre Griffs, Clavertons, or Sir Edwards, it seems that Chester’s food revolution has come a long way.
Steaks and pizzas at Mamma Mia’s and legendary fayre at Pacinos in the 80s formed the firing ingredients for a dining explosion in the 90s as continental cuisine invaded Chester with Paparazzi, Chez Jules and Francs.
These success stories brought many new dynamic establishments to the city. More than 52 new restaurants opened in the city between 1994 and 2000.
Asian, Mediterranean, South American and British cuisine is well represented in Chester with new recruits including Carluccio’s which will soon move to Bridge Street
In 2010 the city has established and new restaurants peppered across the length and breadth of Chester.
They include Chez Jules, Joseph Benjamin, Piccolino’s, Richard Phillips at Oddfellows, Upstairs at The Grill, Blackhouse Grill, Teppan Yaki, Chester Tandoori, Moules a Go-Go, Tropiero, Restaurant Sergio, Zizzi, Aquivit, Simon Radley at The Grosvenor, The Living Room, 1539, and the Village Bistro Hoole.
The city’s vibrant dining scene is complemented by a growing number of restaurants and pubs thriving along the A49 and A51
Much of this success story is owed to the finance, the risks, the tireless work carried out by investors and restaurateurs who realised that an historic city of Chester’s stature could accommodate fine and popular dining.
Chester’s food pioneers have helped to raise the benchmark in quality of food and service.
There are many names on the tips of connoisseur’s tongues who ar locally hailed as heroes within the industry – they include Jason Ellison and Jonathan Poole of Chez Jules, Peter Paperill of Pendrills, Gordon Vickers of the Mill Hotel, Johnnie Bell at Sir Edwards, Robert Kisby at Cabbage Hall and Phil Dougherty, of Chester Racecourse and 1539.
Stephen Wundke chairman of Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle Festival Restaurant Association, believes local food pioneers and diversity paved the way for future culinary success in Chester.
He said: “We have catered for all in Chester and, at the very pinnacle of our offer, has always been the Arkle, Simon Radley, year after year providing Michelin Star food for those who wanted the very best.
“The calibre of chef who wants to come and cook at our festival is without peer and we know the waiting list to appear is growing every year, so much so the organisers have had to add an extra demonstration area to provide more cooking for a public hungry to see these cooking geniuses.”
The profile for the city that this has created has meant even more top chefs are attracted to Chester. This season’s opening of the Marco Pierre White restaurant at Doubletree by Hilton, next month’s Michael Caines at Abode Hotel, the residency of Richard Philips at Oddfellows, and the plans for more new openings in the next six months to complement this stars’ gallery really show that Chester has arrived as destination food.”
This year’s 2010 Chester Food, Drink and Lifestyle Festival which is set to attract more than 20,000 visitors to the city on April 3-5, is a good indicator of the growth of a Chester as a food and drink brand.
TV chef Simon Rimmer, who hosts this year’s festival, sees no reason why Chester can’t be to food and drink what Hay-on-Wye is to books.
He said: “I do many festivals around the country and this is always my favourite one. I have been here from the start and it has just gone from strength to strength and I can only see it growing.”