The chef, who left Seaham Hall for County Durham's Rockliffe Hall in 2009, told BigHospitality it was time to move on and open his own venture after almost 20 years working in hotels.
"I parted on reasonable terms with Rockliffe, but it was time to move on," he said. "I had spent time getting a great team together there and it got to the point where I was ready to leave them to it."
Atkinson, who spent two days earlier this week at the Hand & Flowers working alongside Tom Kerridge, said he was focusing his search on Newcastle, but would also consider sites in key areas outside the city such as Yarm.
He said: "I just want to get the right place and come up with the right concept. I want somewhere where people will come back time and time again. It will definitely be in the North East. I'm based here and I know the area, it's where I'm from.
"Over the next few weeks I'll be doing research. I want to get it right. I don't want to rush it, but ideally I want something sorted within the next three months."
He said he was taking inspiration from other chefs and questioning them on what worked. "I love what Tom (Kerridge) is doing and I think something like that would work well in Newcastle, but I'm not set on anything," he said. "I have been speaking to lots of chefs, I've spoken to Daniel Clifford about what it's like in the city and just getting tips from wherever I can before I move on with anything.
"I will look to do something on my own, but if it's a bigger property I find I have some potential backers who would help with that."
Wherever Atkinson, who won Great British Menu twice, plans to open, he is keen to earn himself a Michelin star again, but not simply for the recognition.
"It's been an aim since I got my first head chef role to get a Michelin star, because as much as people say you don't look for accolades they can help massively when it comes to PR and recruitment. It's always a challenge getting guys to come and work in the North East. Having a star does help."