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Darlington chef though Michelin star was "a joke"
THE owner-chef at a fine dining restaurant is celebrating after securing the North- East’s only Michelin star in the same week he had to overcome a flooding crisis.
James Close, who runs the Raby Hunt, in Summerhouse, near Darlington, found out he had been awarded the coveted star in an email on Thursday.
The news came at the end of a bittersweet week for the 32- year-old local man, who was forced to close the restaurant after it became one of countless properties around the region affected by flooding.
Mr Close said: “Our cellar was flooded and we needed a fire engine to pump the water out, so we were not able to open on Thursday. I got an email about the Michelin star and did not really believe it – I thought it was someone winding me up at first.”
It soon became clear it was no joke and congratulations have since flooded in – from fellow chefs and customers.
The restaurant reopened on Friday night.
Mr Close, who has been running the Raby Hunt for nearly three years, was tipped for a Michelin star in a review in The Northern Echo earlier this year.
Last year’s Michelin Guide did not include a single star for restaurants in Northumberland , County Durham and Tyne and Wear, although North Yorkshire fared better.
Mr Close described the award as unbelievable.
He said: “I never thought we would get [a Michelin star] this early. I thought I would be one of those chefs who waits all his life to get one. I have never really set out to get a star, that would be wrong, I just concentrate on the food.”
The Raby Hunt offers a modern taken on British cuisine, priding itself on using locally-sourced ingredients.
Mr Close has shaken up the menu since taking over, moving from bistro-style food to more refined dining.
Michelin has also awarded stars to three North Yorkshire establishments – the Devonshire Arms, in Bolton Abbey, the Black Swan, Oldstead, near Thirsk , and the Yorke Arms, in Nidderdale, all three of which were in last year’s guide.