James Close

James Close

Executive Chef 4th January 2024
James Close

James Close

Executive Chef


Two Michelin star chef James Close is joining Rockliffe Hall in County Durham to head up an exciting new development for the five-star hotel.

The ground-breaking Close, Chef Patron of 2 Michelin Star Raby Hunt is joining the hotel to open a new restaurant, as well as oversee and develop the culinary direction of the resort.

Close was the first chef in the North East to be awarded two Michelin stars, making his restaurant one of just 20 two Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK and the only two-star restaurant in the North East. It was also placed fourth in The Good Food Guide’s Top 20 Most Exciting UK Restaurants of 2022.

After 14 years at the restaurant, Close is excited about the opportunity to both challenge himself and to create a world class, 5 star destination in the North East with unique and varied culinary experiences, elevating the already exceptional service, and award-winning facilities including a spa and golf course, to new heights.

Close’s new restaurant will continue his current global approach to gastronomy, but a new bespoke space will allow interaction with the chefs, who will take diners on a journey inspired by the best cuisine from around the world. Close will be joined by his wife Maria, who will head up development, and his Head Chef Adam Molloy. The new restaurant is targeted to open later in 2024.

Close will join the hotel in February, which will allow him time to get to know the current culinary offerings, before identifying opportunities to strengthen the resort dining experiences through adding his passion and personality.

Close said: “To join Rockliffe Hall as Culinary Director is an incredible opportunity and the perfect progression to take everything we have developed and achieved at the Raby Hunt to the next level. I’m always striving to do better and I’m looking forward to being part of an ambitious team that wants to lead the way in the culinary hotel space and modernise what a luxury country hotel offers its guests across gastronomy, service, and experiences.

“I’m very thankful to all the people who have believed in us and been involved in our journey so far – repeat diners, guests travelling from further afield, chefs, suppliers, and Michelin, which has played a big part in my career – and we look forward to our continued relationship with all of them.”

Shauna Robb - General Manager, Rockliffe Hall added: “We are delighted to welcome James to Rockliffe Hall. James’ appointment as Culinary Director marks the beginning of an exciting new phase in Rockliffe Hall’s journey and will support us in our ambition to become a world-class luxury destination, offering the best in 5-star experiences to all our guests.”

The Raby Hunt’s last service will be 27th January. James has created ‘The Final Menu’ for the remaining services, which will include favourite dishes from over the years. James will sign each menu in person as a keepsake for those dining at the restaurant. The team will also hold a final celebration event to thank those who have been involved in James and Maria’s journey so far, including chefs, suppliers, regular diners, family and friends.

The Raby Hunt Restaurant with rooms, which is owned by Close’s parents, will be put up for sale with Christie & Co - David Cash, Regional Director will be handling the sale.

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