10 July 2014

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is opening a £1m restaurant in Leeds.

Just over a year after plans for a Fifteen restaurant in the city were binned, the campaigning cook once known as "the naked chef" is set to open Jamie's Italian on Park Row.

The eaterie, scheduled to start serving around May 10, has taken on between 85 and 100 staff, all from the local area, including 28 chefs and around 30 waiting staff.

A Jamie's Italian spokesperson said: "Leeds is a fantastic foodie city and it's a superb choice for the first Jamie's Italian in the north of England."

He said more than £1m had been spent refurbishing the property but all the period features had been retained "because it's a beautiful old building".

But anyone getting their hopes up at the thought of meeting the talented chef in person is likely to be disappointed.

A spokesperson said the TV star usually visits the eateries to meet staff "but he tends to arrive quietly and leave quietly".

The celebrity chef travelled around Italy in his TV series Jamie's Great Escape and was so inspired by the country's cuisine, he has opened a group of "neighbourhood" restaurants, called Jamie's Italian.

They are described as "offering authentic, affordable and great quality Italian food on the high street".

The first launched in Oxford in 2008 and there are now several around the country, including Cardiff, Canary Wharf and Brighton, with outlets also set to open in Covent Garden, Glasgow and Liverpool this summer.

The Leeds branch will have around 240 covers, plus outside seating for summer, with main courses costing between £9.95 and £16.95.

Ian Goldman, chairman of Leeds Restaurant Association said: "We are thrilled that Jamie Oliver has chosen Leeds for the first northern branch of Jamie's Italian restaurant.

"Leeds is a thriving and vibrant city with an already strong restaurant industry and some fantastic food outlets, and this will help further the profile of Leeds and increase the numbers of national and international visitors to the city."

The city's top-class restaurants include Brasserie Blanc, belonging to fellow celebrity chef Raymond Blanc, who came to Leeds for its grand opening in September 2007.

Mouths had been watering in anticipation among the city's many gourmands when a business plan to open social enterprise brasserie Fifteen at Granary Wharf was agreed in 2008.

But last February The Fifteen Foundation – the charity set up by Oliver to train disadvantaged young people as chefs – said it was no longer going ahead with the £1m scheme because of the financial crisis, which meant it had failed to raise the cash needed from Yorkshire firms to get it off the ground.

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