Former North East Chef of the Year Andrew Wilkinson is to take the reins at 31 The Quay, the first business on the Smith’s Dock development in North Shields.
The £650,000 venture blending food and ethics, creating up to 15 jobs, will open in mid-June.
The restaurant – which will see staff paid above the living wage, work a shorter week, and be offered fixed rather than zero-hour contracts – is the brainchild of long-time friends turned business partners Di Veitch, Gareth Cruci and Gordon Foster.
Di, who lives in Tynemouth, said: “The restaurant industry has sadly, in my own experience, been exemplified by long hours, low wages, a lack of training, disrespect towards creditors and customers, and a shortage of imagination in terms of food. We want 31 The Quay to be the complete opposite of that.
“We believe that having a social conscience can be applied to running a restaurant. We want to improve conditions, develop skills and training, take on apprentices who are paid a decent wage, and to focus on employment for locals.
“This is only one small step in one small place, but it has to start somewhere.”
Andrew, who has been based at The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle for the last 12 years, said: “It’s a fantastic chance for me to be in at the beginning and to be effectively opening my own place.”
“It’s something all chefs dream of, but not many get the chance to actually achieve. This is my chance to do my own thing and to continue building my reputation.”
Di added: “We only ever had two people in mind, of whom Andrew was one, and we have been fortunate enough to get him. He’s local, he lives and breathes food, he’s talented, he’s full of ideas, he’s down to earth, and importantly, given our values, he has great integrity.
“This is very much a heart driven project, and Andrew sits very comfortably within that.”
Andrew, a father of four, said: “I want to create somewhere that couples will feel comfortable going, but where families will feel equally at home taking their kids; the sort of place I would feel happy going to on my day off.
“Food wise, it is going to be all about the ingredients, what’s in season, simplicity and locality. I want to let the ingredients do the talking. And being just a stone’s throw from North Shields Fish Quay, seafood is going to play a part in the menu.
“The location of 31 The Quay right on the Tyne has played a big part in my coming on board. There is something about being by the water that has always inspired me.”
The restaurant – currently an empty commercial space bought outright by Di, Gareth and Gordon – is based on the ground floor of two apartment blocks known as The Smokehouses at Smith’s Dock, which opened in 1851 and was a major part of Tyneside’s shipbuilding history until it closed in the 1990s.
Di said: “It’s a very special location right on the river’s edge with sweeping views along the Tyne to Wallsend, down to the sea and across to South Shields. You’ve got big boats, liners and fishing vessels sailing past just 30m away. How incredible is that going to be while you’re dining?”
To stay up-to-date with developments at the soon to open 31 The Quay restaurant, go to www.31thequay.co.uk