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Celebrity chef Danny Millar declared bankrupt after struggles with 'personal challenges'

By Margaret Canning

Published 01/10/2016

Danny Millar, who has declared himself bankrupt
Danny Millar, who has declared himself bankrupt
Poacher's Pocket, Lisbane
The Parson’s Nose, Hillsborough
Danny Millar with Ronan and Jennie Sweeney, directors of Balloo House

Northern Ireland chef Danny Millar, the co-owner and chef at three top restaurants in Co Down, has declared himself bankrupt following a year of "personal challenges".

Mr Millar (44), who has appeared on BBC's Saturday Kitchen and on the Great British Menu, told the Belfast Telegraph: "I deeply regret that personal challenges over the last year have resulted in these proceedings."

Mr Millar, who has a teenage daughter, is listed in bankruptcy notices as having filed a debtor's petition - meaning he's declared himself bankrupt rather than waiting for a creditor to file a petition against him.

He has already resigned as a director from his former company Balloo Inns Ltd, which runs The Parson's Nose, Hillsborough, Balloo House, Killinchy, and The Poacher's Pocket in Lisbane - all of which are remaining open.

And the directors who now own the three restaurants outright, Ronan and Jennifer Sweeney, said they fully backed Mr Millar, who will stay on in his position as executive chef of the restaurants.

The nature of Mr Millar's personal debts is not clear.

In a statement, Balloo Inns said Mr Millar's role as executive chef was unchanged. It said: "Danny Millar is committed to honouring the full terms of the bankruptcy proceedings and his responsibilities to creditors and has the full support of the team at Balloo Inns during this challenging time.

"The proceedings have no impact on the trading of Balloo Inns, which employs 110 people, and it is business as usual across the group."

Mr Millar added: "I will do all I possibly can to honour my commitments and would like to thank everyone for the support provided during a difficult time and, in particular, my family as well as the directors and team at Balloo Inns."

The company, in which Mr Millar was a minority shareholder, started out with Balloo House in Killinchy, taking over the former Marquis of Downshire in Hillsborough, which was renamed The Parson's Nose. It then bought the former Lisbarnett House - just minutes away from Balloo - from Merchant Hotel company Beannchor for around £700,000 in 2014, and renamed it The Poacher's Pocket.

Former chef Nick Price - whose success at Nick's Warehouse in the Cathedral Quarter paved the way for Danny Millar and his generation of chefs - said it was a tough career that could take its toll.

Mr Price, who sold Nick's Warehouse to publican Willie Jack in 2013, said: "Running any business can be a lot of stress for anyone and we do work at quite a fever pitch. Partners can get fed up with the hours that chefs work, and it's also a solitary existence," he said.

"You are always under pressure to get things right and to get the product right, and make sure that people don't complain.

"And when it's good, it's great, but when it's not, it can be terrible."

Mr Price said he was enjoying retirement from the business, and is working part time as a consultant to Clandeboye Lodge.

"I do miss the people, but I don't miss the stress and the day to day stress of finding wages for 30 people - and that aspect was getting increasingly difficult," he said.

His own restaurant had been the first in the Cathedral Quarter when it opened in 1989.

"Now there are a lot more restaurants and I don't know how they all find the customers, though I suppose there are more tourist visitors now," he said.

But he praised Mr Millar's cooking ability and said the work of Balloo Inns in the Comber and Hillsborough areas of Co Down had given the areas a reputation for fine dining. And he said the stresses of the job could add to an added pressure when off-duty.

"We are all prone to enjoying ourselves, and we work hard and play hard. But we have so little leisure time that when we are off, we really do go for it," said Mr Price.

Mr Millar is formerly a finalist on TV's Great British Menu in which chefs competed to cook for the Queen.

Despite regular appearances on BBC1 cooking show Saturday Kitchen, Mr Millar told the Belfast Telegraph in 2014 that the kitchen was where he really wanted to be.

"To be honest, they haven't been kicking my door down to get me back on TV and I would never be in the same bracket as the 'celebrity chefs'," he said.

"I love cooking, training staff and seeing happy punters. I don't want to be on TV - I just want to be in the kitchen," he added.

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