Celebrity chefs join calls for Minister of Hospitality role in Parliament

Mitch Tonks with Brixham trawlers behind him

Mitch Tonks, who runs the Rockfish restaurants across East Devon - Credit: Submitted

Celebrity chefs and other leading players in tourism and hospitality are calling for a bigger voice in Parliament for their battered industry.

A ‘seat at the table' campaign has been launched in a bid to see a minister specifically put in charge of hospitality and given a place within the Cabinet. 

Michael Caines wearing chef's whites

Celebrity chef Michael Caines - Credit: Matt Round

A tourism minister currently sits within the remit of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 

More than 180,000 people have so far signed a campaign petition which means there are enough signatures to force a debate in the Commons on January 11.

But supporters want the names to keep rolling in to ram home the message that they want a louder voice in the corridors of power to help a sector which has lost millions and millions of pounds in the pandemic and which will play a major role in getting the entire country back on its feet.

Local celeb chefs Mitch Tonks and Michael Caines both want to see a Minister for Hospitality.

Tonks, whose Rockfish chain of restaurants include ones in Exmouth and Exeter, said: “This is a fantastic initiative. We want as many signatures as we can. We want 500,000. 

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"We want the Government to realise that we are going to play a big part in the country’s recovery and they need to listen to our representation. 

"Our industry is full of brilliant entrepreneurs. It is down to these entrepreneurs to help rebuild our economy. 

"If you go for a walk there's the cafe and the restaurant and the pubs where we meet friends. We are an island nation. We need to meet.” 

Caines, with businesses across the West Country including Lympstone and Exmouth, said: “I have spoken to many friends; we all agree that there has got to be a big push, once it is safe. There has got to be a Minister for Tourism and Hospitality. This crisis has affected our industry terribly.

"We have taken a big hit. Christmas was crushed but now we must look forward to getting back to ‘normal’.” 

The campaign has also been backed by Michelin star chef Tom Kerridge and Robin Hutson, one of the country’s top hoteliers.

Harry Murray, president of the Hospitality Professionals' Association, and chairman of the five-star resort at Lucknam Park in Wiltshire, is well-known in national and local tourism and hospitality circles – he was general manager of the former five-star Imperial Hotel in Torquay for almost 20 years.

He says: “We have reached 180,000 signatures. We are trying to push for 200,000.

“The next stage is to lobby MPs especially in tourism areas.

“More than five million people, directly or indirectly, are employed in the industry. 

“If they want the economy to ignite, they have to support the hospitality industry.”

The petition can be found at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552201/signatures/new

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