Michelin-starred chef forced to close restaurant

A Michelin-starred chef has been forced to temporarily close his restaurant after more than 80 customers were taken ill after eating there. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) was called in to investigate at The Star Inn at Harome, North Yorkshire, after an outbreak of vomiting and diarrhoea.

Chef Andrew Pern, whose signature dishes include black pudding and foie gras, has a growing national and international reputation for his food served at the thatched former coaching inn in Ryedale on the edge of the North York Moors which he renovated from derelict with his wife Jacquie in 1996. He was awarded one Michelin star in 2002 and was one of the first gastropub chefs in the country to receive the accolade.

His wife, Jacquie, who runs the pub with her husband, said The Star had been closed as a “precautionary measure”: “Early indications are consistent with a viral incident. We are taking the matter very seriously and are co-operating with the health authorities.”

The suspected outbreak last month follows the two-week closure of Heston Blumenthal’s three-Michelin-star Fat Duck in Bray in February, after 500 diners fell ill with norovirus, the same bug which has been found in some staff at The Star. A report by the HPA found that raw shellfish served at the famous Berkshire restaurant had been contaminated with human sewage. Mr Blumenthal later wrote to all those who had fallen ill and offered them a free meal.

Mr Pern recently won the Gourmand World Cookbook Silver Award for best chef cookbook in the world. The restaurant has helped fuel something of a gastronomic revolution in Yorkshire, and the county has been named by Harden’s UK Restaurant Guide as the best place to eat in Britain, with 113 top quality eateries in North Yorkshire alone.

As well as the pub and restaurant, the Perns also have a shop and a hotel in the village, which has become a Mecca for foodies who like to combine sumptuous scenery with their fine dining. Their influence on the area has been compared to that of Rick Stein on Padstow in Cornwall, with some fans dubbing the village “Pernshire”.

The Perns said today that the hotel and the shop remained unaffected and that the rest of the business would be open again shortly.

A spokesman for Ryedale District Council said: “More than 80 people are known to have developed symptoms after eating at the restaurant between 18 October and 28 October. A number of restaurant staff are also known to be affected by symptoms.” HPA staff investigated earlier this week.

Although the norovirus had been found to be present in some members of staff, a common cause of illness had not been identified in affected diners. The virus, known as the winter vomiting bug, is the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis in England and Wales. It is generally mild and people normally make a full recovery within three days. Among those places prone to infection are semi-closed environments such as schools, hospitals and cruise ships. Norovirus can be easily transmitted from person to person. It can also be found on surfaces or objects as well as in items of food and drink.

Dr Simon Padfield, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for North Yorkshire and Humber Health Protection Unit, said: “We’re working closely with environmental health colleagues at Ryedale District Council to investigate the cause of illness.

“Although tests have confirmed that norovirus is affecting a small number of staff at the restaurant, a common cause of illness affecting diners has not been confirmed.”

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