A FLAMBOYANT French chef who bounced back after his restaurant chain collapsed under a mountain of debt and controversy has hailed the “end of an era”.
Pierre Levicky has sold off the last Pierre Victoire restaurant under his ownership, in Eyre Place in the New Town.
Launched in the Capital in the 1980s, the Pierre Victoire chain of eateries grew from just one base in Victoria Street to more than 140 across the UK and beyond, trading under its distinctive green sign and offering an array of mouth-watering bistro food at an affordable price.
The rapid expansion made Mr Levicky, now 55, a very rich man – but the venture ended in disaster when the firm went into receivership in June 1998.
Drowning under debts, he fled the country with his Scottish wife, Jackie, and their two children, cramming his possessions into a rented white van and hitting the road to Paris.
He was accused of removing £2 million from his company accounts to buy a chateau – something which the chef denied. But a court later backed the claim and ruled that he had withdrawn the money between 1994 and 1996 for his own purposes.
After a spell working in restaurants on the continent, Mr Levicky returned to Edinburgh to open the restaurants Chez Jules and Chez Pierre. He eventually turned the latter, in Eyre Place, into the first Pierre Victoire outlet for more than a decade in 2010.
Now, five years on, the restaurant has been sold off to city chef Matthew Gorecki – but Mr Levicky has insisted that this time the decision to let go was entirely his own.
It is understood the eatery will continue trading under the name Pierre Victoire for the time being, and all eight full-time staff have either been kept on or have been transferred to Mr Levicky’s last remaining restaurant, Chez Jules in Hanover Street.
Speaking to the Evening News, the colourful chef said it was time to move on.
He said: “I’m taking some retirement. I had two restaurants in Edinburgh, and this will make my life better. I’m getting old.
“So that’s it – that’s me. The last time I lost it and this time I’m selling it.
“It’s the end of an era for me, but the restaurant will carry on. And I still have Chez Jules on Hanover Street.
“I’m keeping it for the forseeable future.
“I’ll soon be 56 – it will soon be 30 years since I opened Pierre Victoire. I’m not of the 21st century. I’m still from 1986 – I’m still doing the same things.”