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Award-winning chef closes his restaurant as recession bites

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 18, 2012

  • Untitled by Robert Wright. Chef and owner Robert Wright has just been awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand.

  • Robert Wright in restaurant Untitled.

  • Robert Wright is closing his Penzance restaurant, despite being presented with a Bib Gourmand Michelin award

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The owner and chef of a Michelin award-winning restaurant has "killed it off in its prime", blaming the recession and poor summer trade.

Robert Wright said he had been left devastated by the closure of Untitled on Abbey Slip, Penzance, but he said he refused to fall into debt and struggle through what could be a tough winter.

"I decided I was going to assess everything at the end of this season and the future did not look bright," said Mr Wright, former chef at the Gurnard's Head in Treen.

"Penzance has been completely dead since September and the restaurant was starting to not make enough."

The move has left 12 people out of work but by liquidating the business, the ex-staff will still receive their wages.

"To kill something off in its prime feels so wrong and not unlike bereavement, but it had become unsustainable and logically the best thing to do is to quit while not in too much trouble," he said.

The chef opened his own restaurant at the former Abbey Restaurant in February last year. A few short months later Mr Wright was celebrating after being presented with a Bib Gourmand – a special Michelin award recognising value for money.

Despite his success in scooping the culinary silverware, the chef said trading out of season was tough.

"I struggled to get through last winter but then Easter came along and the season was good but not good enough," he said.

"If you can't make enough money in the summer you won't get through the winter."

With a fiancee and family, Mr Wright decided to cut his losses instead of spiral into debt.

With a looming VAT bill and this month's supplier account to pay, Mr Wright decided to call in liquidators.

"I am not going to borrow money personally for this, it is not worth the risk," he said.

"I could borrow money and then be in the same situation this time next year but just with debt."

Adding that he created a "wonderful restaurant", the chef said the closure was a massive loss for Penzance.

"I look at the high street and it is desolate," he said.

"To remove yet another business from Penzance is gutting, especially as this week has also seen the sad loss of the Blue Snappa. I had every hope of riding the storm of the recession through to the phoenix moment that Penzance is surely due but sadly it has not been possible.

"I have enormous respect for all other independent businesses who are managing to keep their heads above water right now and would like to reiterate to all that supporting your independent traders is more important than ever."

Mr Wright said he would now concentrate on supporting his partner Helen Venning's business Newlyn Cheese and Charcuterie as well as focusing on their November wedding.

Thaddeus Cox, manager of the Abbey Hotel, which leased the space to Mr Wright, said it was a shame the restaurant was closing.

"He was doing a really good job and we were really pleased," he said.

"We are saddened. I don't know what will happen to the space now but we would look to reopen it at the beginning of next year if someone wanted to give it a go."

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