Paul Rankin: From Gourmet Ireland to dinner for one...

Celebrity chef Paul Rankin is separating from his wife Jeanne
Celebrity chef Paul Rankin is separating from his wife Jeanne

News that celebrity chef Paul Rankin is to split from his wife is the latest blow to hit the Co Down man.

In a statement issued this week, the top cook confirmed he and wife Jeanne have separated after 25 years of marriage.

The news comes just weeks after Rankin's restaurant received a rating of just one out of five in a new food hygiene scheme.

Although dark clouds have gathered over Rankin's culinary empire he and wife Jeanne were once the golden couple of Belfast's post-ceasefire social scene.

In 1991 Rankin's restaurant, Roscoff, was the first in Northern Ireland to land a coveted Michelin Star, having opened its doors just three years earlier.

The huge accolade catapulted the Co Down man to the top of his trade and served as a foundation stone for an food-based empire that has only recently started to come apart.

The couple became household names when they teamed up to present TV cookery show Gourmet Ireland in 1994.

The 15-part BBC series spawned a generation of food fans hooked on Rankin's unique cooking style and easy delivery.

The Rankins had met a decade earlier in the glamourous surroundings of London's posh Le Gavroche restaurant.

At the time Rankin was washing dishes while his wife-to-be was a waitress.

However, within months both were elevated to the kitchen and the first seeds of success were sown. In the following years the couple learned all the skills that would stand by them when they eventually returned to Northern Ireland to set up their own business.

After returning to Jeanne's home country of Canada, the pair moved on to Califonia's Napa Valley before taking the plunge and finally opening the doors of Roscoff in Belfast.

The eatery established a reputation for excellent food, low prices and a laid-back atmosphere and was a breath of fresh air in the conflict-filled city.

As Rankin's reputation grew, so did his business empire.

In addition to rebranding his signature restaurant Roscoff as Cayenne in the late '90s, the chef launched his Rankin cafe chain and Rain City restaurant on the Malone Road, as well as unveiling a range of specialist breads.

As the decade passed, Paul Rankin took on more of the business burden after a serious horse riding accident forced his wife to relinquish some responsibility.

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

Mounting financial difficulties forced a further sell-off the following year.

Rankin admitted struggling to juggle all his business interests and TV work. At the time, he told the Belfast Telegraph: "I'm not sure if my heart was in it. I'm not an out-and-out businessman, my passion is cooking."

In the years after breaking her back in a horse riding accident Jeanne Rankin drifted into the shadows as her husband's profile continued to rocket.

The mother of three gave up being a professional chef and admitted becoming reliant on prescription drugs.

Since admitting her addiction she has been treated at the world- famous Priory Clinic in London.

Today, Jeanne is a qualified yoga teacher and provides programmes specifically tailored for people with serious health conditions.

Earlier this year Rankin's business received a further blow after Cayenne was awarded a rating of just one under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

At the time managers said the rating system was unfair and they have worked hard to address any problems raised.

Background

Paul Rankin worked as a waiter while travelling the world in the 1980s before becoming a chef in London, Canada and the US. He then returned to Belfast with his wife Jeanne to open Roscoff in 1989. He branched out with Cafe Paul Rankin in 1995, renamed Roscoff as Cayenne in 1999 and opened Rain City in 2002. Awards included a Michelin star for Roscoff in 1991 and Caterer and Hotelkeeper Newcomer of the Year 1991. His TV appearances included Hot Chefs 1991, Gourmet Ireland and Ready Steady Cook. He has also published six books, focusing mainly on Irish cuisine.

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