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Food & bev. services New business South Africa

Top chef goes bust

Debt-ridden Irish celebrity chef Conrad Gallagher, who has left a bitter taste in the mouths of his South African creditors, is planning to set up shop in Ireland.

Gallagher, the youngest chef ever to be awarded two Michelin stars, was provisionally sequestrated by the Western Cape High Court yesterday.

The Times has learnt that Gallagher, who is currently in Dublin, has been in talks with Irish tycoon Louis Murray about the possibility of working at Murray's posh Balzac restaurant in the La Stampa hotel.

“The time frame we were talking about was very shortly,” Murray told The Times yesterday. “But after what you've just told me, I'm not so sure. One thing I value is integrity.”

The world-renowned master chef moved to South Africa in 2003 after his restaurants in Ireland collapsed under debt.

Gallagher was recruited by then chief executive of Sun International, Peter Bacon, to upgrade standards at the hotel chain's five- and six-star properties. He also reviewed South African Airways' food and beverage operation.

Now he owes catering specialist Mac Brothers Catering Equipment about R300 000 and Absa bank R1.8-million, according to court papers.

Staff down tools

Staff at Gallagher's Geisha Wok and Noodle Bar in Green Point downed tools on Monday night with 20 customers waiting to be fed. A member of staff, who asked not to be named, said some staff had not been paid for nearly two months.

A sign has since been placed on the door of the restaurant, located in the trendy new Cape Royale Luxury Hotel and Residence, announcing that the staff is on leave and that Geisha will re-open in September.

Nathan Schmidt, managing director of the Cape Royale, said the closure of the restaurant was “not ideal”.

“We have communicated with Conrad via e-mail and he said he has sent his staff on annual leave. He was planning to close in July, so this has been on the cards. We have asked him to come and see us when he is back in town,” Schmidt said.

Neither Gallagher nor Geisha general manager Marc Gibbons responded to messages from The Times yesterday.

The Irish Herald reported last month that Gallagher and his wife, former Port Elizabeth model Candice Coetzee, had jetted into Dublin to attend a star-studded 10th anniversary celebration of Ireland's longest-running celebrity magazine, VIP

One of the couple's homes was sold on forced auction in May for R3.1-million and Gallagher now owes Absa R1.8-million, plus interest.

The couple now live in a Green Point home on which there is an outstanding bond of R6.1-million.

Income close to R300 000pm

Gallagher earns, according to court papers, a R210 000 monthly consulting fee from Sun International Hotels and about R75 000 a month from contracts with businesses including the Trump Group and the St Regis hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Gallagher and Coetzee recently opened Sundance Gourmet Coffee, but the company's four outlets in Cape Town closed their doors this year.

The former Irish chef of the year has cooked for Bill Clinton in the White House and fed the likes of Bono, Gwen Stefani, Pierce Brosnan and singer Ronan Keating.

Fans of the talented chef have flocked to Geisha to sample his tempura fried calamari and duck rillette dim sum.

He has designed restaurant concepts, menus and recipes for restaurants including Paranga in Camps Bay, Aqua Restaurant in Durban, the Waldorf Astoria in New York and the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Pre-empting Gallagher's cash woes, Chester Finance, from which he had borrowed R1.5-million, applied last year to have Conrad Gallagher CC placed under provisional liquidation.

“The court made a settlement agreement an order of the court and he is making repayments according to that agreement,” said Chester Finance joint chief executive Sean Molenschot.

The application for the final sequestration order will be heard on September 2.

Source: The Times

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