Rick Stein was roundly condemned when he shut up shop and stopped paying his staff at the start of lockdown, claiming his restaurant empire was on the brink.
Now Stein and his ex-wife Jill have drawn up plans to close several of his 14 restaurants, including two at the heart of his Cornish operation.
The multi-millionaire chef’s managing director Ian Fitzgerald told his 600 staff: ‘It remains a challenging time for everyone as we come to terms with the implications and repercussions of the coronavirus crisis. Sadly, with less customers expected in the future, it is likely that we will need to employ fewer people.
‘Ongoing discussions with the bank and our landlords have not yielded sufficient progress and therefore we are having to sadly look at the viability of a small number of operational sites which includes consulting with Porthleven, Falmouth and Marlborough.’
Stein, 73, and his son Jack have begun running a virtual food festival ‘to support farmers, fishermen and food producers as well as raising money for charity’.
He has also been serving takeaways from the Rick Stein restaurant in Sandbanks, Dorset, and The Cornish Arms in St Merryn, near Padstow.
Stein opened The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow in 1975.
Since then he has launched a bistro, cafe, fish and chip shop, bar, fishmongers and cookery school in the seaside town.
After the coronavirus struck, his firm told staff: ‘We cannot afford to pay anybody after March 21. If we were to do that the company will be gone within a few weeks.’
A spokesman for Stein said: ‘We are currently in conversation with our teams as to the best way forward. Final decisions cannot be made until that process is complete.