Northern Ireland celebrity chef Paul Rankin and his business partner wife Jeanne are on the brink of losing their last remaining restaurant after being served with bankruptcy papers, it has emerged.
The couple, who have been struggling to cope with mounting debts since 2006, are expected in court on either February 25 or 26.
It is understood the couple were served with the papers at their home.
In a statement issued last night a spokeswoman for the Rankins said they were working with professional advisers to protect their Belfast city centre restaurant Cayenne.
Last year the well-known TV chef, who received Northern Ireland’s first Michelin Star, was forced to sell off his Roscoff Brasserie and Rankin cafe chain in a bid to ease financial difficulties.
And in 2006 he sold three Rankin Cafes and his Rain City restaurant on Belfast's Malone Road.
At that time he said he wanted to concentrate on Cayenne, his signature restaurant. Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph last year, Paul Rankin admitted he had experienced problems after growing his business too fast.
At one point he was juggling the management of the restaurants, cafe chain and Rankin Selection brand with his television work.
He said: “Problems arose in the business when we tried to expand too quickly and, as a result, we started losing a little bit of control.
“Selling off the cafes and Rain City re-addressed that from a focus point of view. People expect a lot from a Rankin restaurant, expectations are high and I do not think we were delivering consistently.
“And we did make mistakes. We should have raised the money and had a stronger business team before we began expanding with our own money. We just did not have the financial kitty.
“Also, looking back, I'm not sure if my heart and soul was really in it. I'm not an out-and-out businessman, my passion is cooking.”
Rankins’ spokeswoman told the Belfast Telegraph: “Paul and Jeanne Rankin are working with professional advisers to reach an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) with their creditors in relation to debts as a result of financial difficulties.
“At the end of last year, two of the Rankin cafes were forced to close and the remaining cafe and brasserie operations sold off. The couple have been working to secure their remaining business, Cayenne Restaurant at Shaftesbury Square, and the IVA arrangement will underpin these efforts.
“Paul Rankin is now focused on his remaining flagship restaurant Cayenne which has seen a remarkable turnabout in popularity and bookings since he returned to the kitchen.
“His wife Jeanne Rankin, who suffered serious medical problems following a horse-riding accident, has now returned to her position at front-of-house at the restaurant they started almost 20 years ago.”