A Michelin-starred Diss food pioneer has retired from the ground-breaking Fredricks Fine Foods business he established with his wife, but the future of the business is in safe hands, he insists.
Chef Freddie Jones set up the deli and catering business with wife Linda eight years ago, basing it in Norfolk House Yard, off St Nicholas Street in Diss.
But a new mini Diss food empire is to be ushered in after it was sold to John and Juliette Atkinson of Burston, who in mid-May are set to open a new restaurant in the adjoining Cobbs Yard and will run the two businesses side-by-side.
Mr Jones a multi-award-winning chef, who has previously run his own hotels, turns 70 this year, and the couple now want to spend more time on their other interests, including travelling in their motorhome.
He said: “It has been a lovely eight years and I can’t thank people enough. The town has been very good to us.
“We didn’t want to sell the shop to just anyone, and it has worked out very nicely. I’m sure John and Juliette are going to take it forward.”
Mr Jones said the concept for the business came from France where delicatessens also cooked and prepared food on the premises. He took it further by making the food preparation visible to customers.
Mr Atkinson and Mrs Atkinson are already behind the counter at Fredricks, along with cook Dawn Keetch. Mr Atkinson said he had known Mr Jones for 15 years, both living in Burston. Mr Atkinson first decided to open the restaurant and asked Mr Jones for advice, who then revealed he was to close down Fredricks after finding no one to take it over.
Mr Atkinson said it would have been “criminal” for the business to close down and offered to buy it.
“We’ve had a crash course with Freddie for weeks learning all the recipes. But we also think it is important to put our own stamp on it,” he added.
Mr Atkinson said everything would remain the same with the business, with any changes incorporated gradually.
Mr Atkinson ran two delicatessens and a restaurant in London about 40 years ago, and is also a keen cook.
He praised Mr and Mrs Jones for their impact on the local food scene and elevating the reputation of Diss.
“The day Fredricks opened I was invited and just thought that this is what delis should be like,” he said.
The restaurant is yet to be named but will be inspired by the boiler front feature in the building. Mr Atkinson said it would serve modern British food “with a touch of the Mediterranean”, with fine dining offered in the evenings and more informal brasserie-type food at lunchtimes.
Food served in the brasserie could also be available in the deli, creating a connection between the two businesses.
Jobs will be created at the restaurant including chef, front-of-house and waiting staff, while additional roles could also be created at the deli.