The man behind a twice Michelin-starred restaurant has hinted that the venue could still live on in a similar guise after stepping away from the venue on Saturday (January 27) after 14 years at the helm. 

James Close, who has transformed the Raby Hunt in Summerhouse, near Darlington, from a community pub to one of the most influential restaurants in the North East over the years. 

However, on Saturday (January 27), he will leave the venue where he has built up two Michelin stars and a host of top culinary awards, in favour of a move to Darlington's five-star resort, Rockliffe Hall. 

The Northern Echo: James Close outside the Raby HuntJames Close outside the Raby Hunt (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

Since announcing that he was going to step down from the Raby Hunt at the start of the month, the venue has appeared online with online listing group Christie & Co for £750,000. 

However, Mr Close has now hinted that it might not necessarily be sold - it might potentially be leased to an up-and-coming chef, given that Mr Close's parents currently own the building. 

The Northern Echo: James Close in the kitchen of the Raby HuntJames Close in the kitchen of the Raby Hunt (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

"For a young chef, this place would be a dream where they can grow their career and put their stamp on it. I've made it my own and had some great times here, but it would make a lovely little place for someone," said Mr Close when The Northern Echo sat down with him on Monday (January 22). 

"The venue is on sale at the moment - but we'll have to see what happens with it.

"While I could say that it's not my issue, my parents do own the building and I do have an interest in it still." 

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Alongside the potential for the Raby Hunt to reopen once Mr Close leaves, the esteemed chef opened up on the difficulty of driving past the Raby Hunt each morning when he travels to his new venture at Rockliffe Hall. 

"This place has been such an important part of my life for so long - it's going to be very difficult for me and I have already broken down a little bit. 

"The last service will be difficult - we have invited lots of old staff to celebrate with us - it'll be nice to move on to a new challenge but will be sad to leave the Raby Hunt."