ABOUT 100 new jobs are to be created in York when a restaurant owned by top TV chef Jamie Oliver opens later this year.

The Jamie’s Italian branch will be next to Guildhall, over two floors in an unused part of the building that houses the Lendal Cellars pub. The pub will remain as part of the development.

Construction work is currently taking place on the Grade II-listed building and the restaurant is scheduled to open in July.

Jamie’s Italian Ltd has now begun the search for chefs and front-of-house staff ahead of its unveiling, and hopes to create 100 posts.

Oliver, who made his name on his show The Naked Chef and as a campaigner for healthier school dinners, said he had been looking to open a branch in York for some time.

He said: “York is such a beautiful city – I used to go there on holiday as a kid and I’ve wanted to find the right site there for a while.

“We’re in a fantastic location and it’s really going to be a wonderful place to eat, one of the jewels of the Jamie’s Italian collection.

“We’re now recruiting and starting to train the very best local waiting staff, chefs and front-of-house staff, so we hope people will come and join us.”

A spokeswoman for the firm said the transformation of the building would ensure original features, including Tudor roof trusses and exposed brick walls, would be preserved, with the restaurant having an open kitchen allowing diners to watch the chefs at work. It will also boast an external dining area.

The building dates back to the 17th century on the site of an earlier friary, and it became a wine cellar for the Lord Mayors of York.

York restaurateur Michael Hjort, who is secretary of York Hospitality Association and who organises the annual York Food And Drink Festival, said: “York has a large number of chain operations, of which the Jamie’s Italian restaurant will be another one.

“There is certainly no harm in competition and I think it will be a welcome addition to the offer York gives to its visitors.”

The sections of the building where the restaurant is taking shape have previously been out of use for several years.

The Jamie’s Italian chain currently has 26 restaurants across the UK, as well as branches in Sydney and Dubai. Its only other Yorkshire restaurant is in Leeds.

York Press: The Press - Comment

Jamie keen for pizza the action

YORK’S popularity seems to grow by the year and as we reported on Saturday, the number of overseas visitors increased by 12 per cent in 2011.

But one of York’s biggest fans lives closer to home; Jamie Oliver who tells us he likes the city so much, he has been looking for a while to find a perfect city centre location for his new restaurant.

Now he has found it; the Grade II listed Lendal Cellars pub, next to Guildhall. And Jamie's Italian will provide 100 new jobs, which comes hard on the heels of the announcement that American fashion retailers Urban Outfitters are set to employ 20 new staff when it moves into High Ousegate.

In these difficult economic times, it is good that York remains a highly prized city and both Jamie Oliver and Urban Outfitters say they have had a longstanding need to be here.

This is yet more evidence that while other towns run campaigns to save their high streets, York continues to buck the trend.

Indeed a report last year named Stonegate the most prized retail address outside central London, while Petergate was nominated for Britain's best shopping street in the Google street view awards.

There may be concern that few of the recent job announcements have been in the manufacturing sector, but with Science City, York does lead the way in industry with cutting-edge, applied research. In any case, jobs, wherever they come from, are always welcome and Jamie Oliver’s desire to be in York adds one more vote of confidence in a city centre that is a sought-after place to do business.

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