Belfast Telegraph

Paul Rankin: Dramatic rise and fall of chef’s bread and butter

By John Mulgrew

Celebrity chef Paul Rankin’s business empire began to crumble several years ago with mounting debts forcing him to sell off many of his restaurants.

Despite his meteoric rise to the top of his profession, Rankin’s fortunes began to stall in 2005 when he was forced to sell his Roscoff Brasserie and several Rankin Cafes.

Mounting difficulties forced a further sell-off the next year which included his Rain City restaurant on Belfast’s Malone Road.

In 2009 the Belfast Telegraph revealed he and wife Jeanne had debts of more than £1m — the vast majority owed to the taxman.

At the height of their success the pair employed around 500 staff. It was reported that they had “prioritised” worker salaries and other costs in order to keep a number of former businesses running until buyers were found.

But times for the couple were once much rosier, with Paul Rankin’s foray into the world of cooking beginning in the 1980s — working as a waiter.

Having worked at some of the world’s top restaurants, he opened his first restaurant in Northern Ireland in 1989.

Within a short space of time Roscoff had received a raft of plaudits from the public and critics.

It also made local restaurant history by becoming the first restaurant in Northern Ireland to land a Michelin Star in 1991.

The award did much to catapult the Co Down man to the top of his trade and served as a foundation for his food empire. Among his other restaurant ventures — at one stage having 15 on the go — he opened Cafe Paul Rankin in 1995 and in 1999 renamed Roscoff as Cayenne — which is currently his only restaurant still operating.

Aside from his Michelin Star he has received a list of accolades in his some 23 years as a restaurant owner — including taking the Caterer and Hotelkeeper Newcomer of the Year in 1991.

In the early ‘90s he became a stalwart of daytime TV cooking shows and was often seen on BBC’s Ready Steady Cook. He later landed his own show, Gourmet Ireland, alongside Jeanne in 1994.

Background

  • Opened first restaurant Roscoff in 1989
  • Restaurant earns Michelin Star in 1991
  • Appears on a range of TV cooking shows including Ready Steady Cook
  • Lands his own programme with then wife Jeanne in 1994 — Gourmet Ireland
  • Publishes a range of books including Ideal Home Cooking and Dublin Dining
  • Opens Cafe Paul Rankin in 1995
  • Renames Roscoff, Cayenne in 1999
  • Sells several of his restaurants including the Rankin Cafes

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