Frances Atkins has cooked at the 18th century coaching house in the Dales village of Ramsgill for two decades. She placed it on the market for £1.75m earlier this week following the retirement of husband Bill, with whom she co-ran the business.
“It’s a big milestone for us, 20 years is quite a stint. As the business has grown I’ve had to become a hotelier and a businesswoman,” she says. “I’m a chef at heart and I want to concentrate on the cooking because it’s what I enjoy. With Bill retiring there’s going to be even more business-related things to do, hence the sale.”
Frances remains tight-lipped about what’s coming next but says she intends to stay within the restaurant industry and that her new project won’t be local to The Yorke Arms.
“We’re selling the business as a going concern,” say Atkins, who trained at The Box Tree in Ilkley when it was owned and run by Malcolm Reid and Colin Long. “My current staff will have a choice to either come with me or stay on and work with the new owner, whomever that might be. I’m hoping most of my team will come with me to take on a bigger challenge. I’m looking forward to putting all my focus back on to the food.”
Atkins purchased The Yorke Arms in 1996 and opened it as a simple brasserie. “Everywhere we could put a table we put a table because we needed to get people through the door,” she says. “We became very busy and slowly we got enough money together to do it up a bit. Over the years our food became more sophisticated and complex.”
The Yorke Arms won a Michelin star in 2003 and has retained the accolade ever since. “It was a surprise,” she recalls. “There’s been a huge amount of pressure to retain it but more recently my food has become more simplistic and ingredients led. It’s now time to take that to an environment that’s going to complement that.”