Top US chef quits after row over rock star's £61m club

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The Independent Online

America's top chef has angrily walked out on a project devised by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics to provide a spectacular £61m private members' club in London.

Charlie Trotter, whose Chicago eaterie was named last year as "The Best Restaurant in the United States", has dismissed the project to create a seven-storey club and hi-tech arts and media centre called The Hospital as "unprofessional".

Stewart's dream is to bring together people of talent from the worlds of music, film and art and give them the chance to work in an environment that allows them maximum creative freedom.

But the centre in Covent Garden took three years to win planning permission and then, last autumn, the investors got cold feet, leading to further delays. Trotter became exasperated. His spokesman, Mark Signorio, said he had worked on the project for two years without pay. He called the delays "ridiculous", and added: "It was so unprofessional that we decided to walk away."

The blow to The Hospital has become known as Stewart's "artist-friendly" entertainment company has hit the rocks, with debts of £2.8m.

Artist Network was born a year ago amid claims that it had backing of more than £6m for its aim of challenging the corporatisation and "corruption" of the media industries. But after the backing failed to materialise in sufficient quantities, Artist Network has been put into a company voluntary arrangement, a step short of administration that allows it to continue trading. Earlier this year Stewart's attempts to relaunch the name of the famous rock venue, the Marquee Club, ended with the venture being put into administration because of cash-flow problems.

Stewart has blamed the failings of Artist Network on the lack of financial backing and the cost of marketing.

Yesterday his spokesman, Phil Savage, said the company would ensure that artists who had recorded music with the company would have their music released by other labels.

He said: "The fundamental problem is that it's a very ambitious project. It's ahead of its time and because of the state of the music business at the moment it's very hard to get funding."

Mr Savage said that many people "agree with the original vision" of Artist Network "which is to help the artists".

Creditors of Artist Network include Michael Philipp, an American banker who is owed £625,000, and Stewart's own company, Eligible Music, which is owed £500,000 but will be the last to be paid.

Mr Savage insisted that in spite of the demise of Artist Network, the Hospital project, built in a derelict Victorian maternity hospital, was still going ahead. Stewart has devised the club in partnership with Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.

In an interview with Vogue earlier this year, Stewart said: "The Hospital won't just have great spaces - beautiful bars, a wonderful restaurant, all the usual social things - but there will also be amazing technical facilities, so you can actually write a song and record it right there, or you can make a film and show it in the screening room, or you can wander round with a camera and put what you're shooting straight out on a digital TV channel."

But the über-club will have to do without Trotter, who was named by the influential Wine Spectator magazine as America's finest chef. He has his own show on national television in America, Kitchen Sessions. Mr Savage said: "With Charlie Trotter, they were in negotiations for ages and it just didn't work out."

He added that The Hospital would open as a working studio next month and the members' club and restaurant would start operating in February next year. In the meantime, Stewart is looking for a cook.

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