James Street South group to open new cookery school in Belfast

Niall McKenna, award-winning chef, restaurateur and entrepreneur
Kelly McAllister

AWARD-winning chef and James Street South owner Niall McKenna has outlined details of a new cookery school he plans to open in Belfast later this year.

As exclusively revealed by the Irish News last month, the entrepreneur has bought Waterman House on Hill Street in the popular Cathedral Quarter, close to where he and his wife Joanne already run successful restaurant Hadskis.

The cookery school will accommodate parties of up to 18 at a time.

The McKennas' business currently has 85 full and part-time staff and it operates two apprenticeship schemes aimed at growing Belfast’s hospitality sector (since 2014 they have signed up 34 recruits).

“Belfast’s tourism growth has been remarkable, but the sector continues to face a significant challenge from constraints in the availability, recruitment and retention of skilled and experienced staff and it needs to be addressed,” Niall said.

“Our business is based on providing the highest quality food, drink and customer service in the best surroundings. Location is key, which is why we have made the strategic decision to open this exciting new cookery school in the Cathedral Quarter, an increasingly vibrant and bustling part of the city.

“We’re delighted to reaffirm our commitment to developing and sustaining our award-winning hospitality offer with renewed vigour and passion and we look forward to seeing customers old and new in the months and years ahead."

Mark Cunningham, regional business development manager at Bank of Ireland UK, said: “We're delighted to be the funding partner for the acquisition of the new premises at Hill Street and to be working with James Street South Group as it continues to realise its business vision and growth ambitions.”

The redevelopment of Waterman House is part of a wider £3.5 million into a significant urban regeneration development in the Hill Street/Cathedral Quarter area by pubs entrepreneur Willie Jack of Commercial Court Inns Ltd which will create another major tourist destination and open up the historic old Half Bap Lane road link in the city.

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