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Winners of BBC2's The Restaurant to open in Marlow

Michele and RussellMichele English and Russell Clement, winners of BBC2's programme, The Restaurant, announce the opening of their new restaurant, The Cheerful Soul in the Hare & Hounds, in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, in mid-June 2009.

The Cheerful Soul in the Hare & Hounds, which is backed by restaurateur and legendary chef, Raymond Blanc, is more than a restaurant, it is the first step to fulfilling a dream for Michele and Russell. The journey began for Michele and Russell when they entered and won a coveted place as one of nine couples competing in the second series of BBC2's The Restaurant.

After trials, tribulations and a very tense train journey catering for passengers on the Orient-Express, they triumphed, winning the opportunity of a lifetime, to open their very own restaurant in partnership with legendary chef, Raymond Blanc.

"I chose Michele and Russell as my winners because they worked together as the most outstanding team, they had the best and most consistent skills as a chef and front of house partnership and their restaurant regularly made a profit, " says Raymond. "Their enthusiasm is fantastic; their dreams marvellous, and their passion exciting - and that is a real complement from a Frenchman!"

"Our task over the last few months has been to combine their raw talent with the training, knowledge and good business practices needed to succeed in running a restaurant."

Since winning in November 2008, Michele and Russell have been training with the talented teams behind the Brasserie Blanc restaurants, learning the foundations of successful business, from food costing and accounting to staff recruitment and legal duties.

The Hare & Hounds is a traditional Seventeenth century country pub and restaurant on the Henley Road, within walking distance of Marlow town centre, which is an idyllic and historic town on the River Thames. The Cheerful Soul in the Hare & Hounds will be a 60 - 70 cover restaurant, initially open for lunch and dinner five and a half days a week.

"The Hare & Hounds has a warm and welcoming atmosphere and feels like the perfect home for The Cheerful Soul," says Michele. "We have five weeks before opening to craft the restaurant and inject our personality into every detail."

"Marlow, in the heart of the country, is perfectly located to allow us access to some of the best quality local producers Britain has to offer," commented Russell. "Our British brasserie style menu will change bi-monthly to follow the seasons. I'm really looking forward to exploring the possibilities of the local produce. On the menu we will be rediscovering some forgotten recipes alongside firm favourites. Dishes on the opening menu include Pressed Ham Terrine with Cauliflower Piccalilli and Devonshire Scone Panperdy with Strawberries and Clotted Cream"

Russell will be joined by a team of four in the kitchen, whilst Michele will run the front of house with another five locally recruited staff.

"Russell and Michele have worked very hard over the past few months to transform their dream of running their own restaurant into a reality and for that I have a tremendous amount of respect for them," commented Raymond as keys to the premises were exchanged today. "I would say to anyone: follow your heart with passion and a lot of hard work, and you never know what might happen."

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