Celebrity chef buys pub chain based in Norfolk

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Marco Pierre White has bought the troubled Maypole Group pub and hotel chain, based at Wayford Bridge, near Stalham.

Administrators for the firm handling the sale have confirmed rumours circulating for several months that Mr White, the so-called 'enfant terrible' of the UK restaurant world, is Maypole's new owner.

As well as the 15-bed Wayford Bridge Hotel, the group's portfolio includes the Lifeboat Inn and Old Coach House, both in Thornham, the Bridge Inn at Acle, and the Angel Hotel in Lavenham, Suffolk.

Administrators Baker Tilly say Mr White was one of 20 parties interested in the group and a spokesman described the deal as a 'fantastic outcome' which secured the group's future.

A member of staff at the Wayford Bridge told the EDP that everyone there was 'very excited' at the news. Nothing was planned at present but Mr White was 'doing the rounds' next week and there would be a series of meetings.

Mr White has worked with, or trained, some of the top names in British cookery and became the youngest chef to be awarded three Michelin stars, aged 33.

His already has links with Norfolk after signing up as a brand ambassador for Bernard Matthews Farms and British turkey.

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At the time of that deal, last March, Mr White announced: 'Ever since I was a young boy I've been an admirer of turkey and particularly Bernard Matthews, because he is without question one of the great farmers of the last five decades.'

Mr White began his classical training under Roux brothers Albert and Michel at Le Gavroche and in 1987 opened his first restaurant, Harveys, in Wandsworth Common, London.

Among those working for him during later years were the now-famous fellow celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal.

Mr White retired from the kitchen in 1999 and became a restaurateur. His business interests include the Belvedere and L'Escargot restaurants in London, and The Yew Tree Inn, near Highclere, in north Hampshire.

He also featured as head chef in ITV's Hell's Kitchen series in 2007 and 2009, and advertises a brand of stock cubes.

In his early kitchen days Mr White had a reputation for regularly ejecting customers if he took offence at their comments. It is said that once a customer asked for a side order of chips which White hand-cut and personally cooked, charging �25 for his time.

Maypole, founded in 2003, employs nearly 200 people and appointed Baker Tilly in December after being unable to repay loans to Clydesdale Bank. Its businesses have continued trading throughout the process. Mr White did not want to comment until he had definite plans to announce.