A former Masterchef contestant is confident of opening a new fine-dining restaurant in County Durham next year.

Mike Bartley, 37, who appeared on hit cooking reality show, MasterChef in 2021, is confident he will be able to open his Jord restaurant in Bishop Auckland next year as his Kickstarter fundraiser continues to gather steam.

Mr Bartley said he was left surprised and overjoyed by the support he received under his crowdfunding effort, which sits at £24,017 at the time of writing.

He said the funding, which has a target of £35,000, will go towards maximising the potential of the restaurant - going towards fitting out the venue with suitable furniture, artwork, and various pieces of kitchen equipment.

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He said: "It is going well and we're pretty confident we're going to hit the goal.

"[The food is] going to be really affected by the seasons, whatever is growing in the local area, I'll be getting out and looking to see what's happening in the countryside, and then forming the menu based on that

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"In the Spring, you can expect to see things like wild garlic, and in the Autumn, you can expect to see things like wild mushrooms. It's really affected by the seasons and making sure that we're picking products at the absolute height of their quality.

"Tasty food doesn't have to be over-elaborate, it doesn't have to be opulent, it can just be really simple with a couple of ingredients done really well.

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A crowdfunder on Kickstarter can last for a maximum of 60 days, and if it does not reach its target within this time, the creator will not receive the pledges.

He said he had been a fan of MasterChef for years before appearing on the show, and began working as a private chef shortly after appearing on the show.

He added it was a "make or break" period in his life and the feedback he received on the show helped refine his cooking, leading him to prioritise simpler food over "fancy" offerings.

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo:

Adding to this, he said his time spent as a private chef has helped refine his menu, and he will be certain to lead with some of his "greatest hits."

Mr Bartley said the restaurant plans to open between February and May of next year, and that he has been left blown away by the response to his crowdfunder.

The Northern Echo: The building Jord will occupyThe building Jord will occupy (Image: Mike Bartley)

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 "It's been absolutely mad. It's been great, it's been fantastic. It's really encouraging and tells me I'm on the right track," he added.

"Please come down and give it a try. What we would really like to do is make it as inclusive as possible, we're not asking people to break the bank to come and eat with us.

"One of the greatest things about tasting menus is that it really can cater to everyone."