THE owner of a multi-award winning restaurant in Ramsbottom is hanging up his chef's hat after 29 years.

Chris Johnson is handing over the reins to head chef and protege Lu Varley to continue the vision he and his late wife, Ros, had for the popular Italian eatery.

Ramsons first opened in 1985 when Newcastle theatre director Chris and Ros wanted a new challenge and bought The Village, in Market Place.

Chris ran the business and front-of-house, while the kitchen was Ros’s domain.

The team scooped dozens of awards, including North of England Newcomer of the Year in The Which? Good Food Guide in 1986. In 1995, Henrietta Green’s Food Lovers Guide named it Britain’s Best Food Shop.

Ros’s health began to suffer and Abdulla Naseem was brought in as head chef.

Ramsons scooped the Good Food Guide Reader’s Restaurant of the Year Award in 2008 and Chris’s wine list was named Wine List of the Year in the 2011 Good Food Guide. In 2012, head chef ‘Naz’ moved on, and Lu moved up from the Hideaway restaurant to take charge.

But the restaurant was struck by a double tragedy when Lu’s partner and fellow chef Farhad Ghassemi was attacked outside the restaurant and left fighting for his life. Three days later, the restaurant was rocked by Ros’s death. Farhad began a slow recovery and is now back at work.

Lu, who was head chef and a director, is now chef/proprietor.

She said: “I am so grateful to Chris and Ros for the opportunity they have given me.”