Conrad Gallagher carve out US career
Published 27/02/2012 | 05:00
CONTROVERSIAL chef Conrad Gallagher got a letter from TV3 recommending him for work -- but the station itself stopped using him because of concerns about his "personal affairs".
The head of programmes Ben Frow wrote the personal letter in an attempt to "open doors in television" for Mr Gallagher in the US just as his restaurant businesses went bust here, the Irish Independent can reveal.
The former star of the station's 'Head Chef' series is now living in Santa Monica in California and is offering consultancy services to top hotels and restaurants in New York and Abu Dhabi.
Two Dublin restaurants run by Mr Gallagher closed last July and the companies operating them wound up over a €166,000 tax bill. He left South Africa in 2009 with debts estimated at €170,000.
Last night, Mr Gallagher (41) denied he plans to move into US television despite the letter of recommendation. And he refused to discuss details of his new consultancy business.
"As I presume, the article will be a negative one, I have no comment and wish you well," Mr Gallagher, who is from Letterkenny. Co Donegal, told the Irish Independent.
"I have wished (producer) Billy McGrath and TV3 well with the future of 'Head Chef' but I will not be moving forward with it in any capacity in Ireland or the USA," he added.
Maurice Kettyle, who supplied food for Queen Elizabeth's historic visit to Ireland last year, is among those who claim they are owed money after Mr Gallagher's businesses were wound up last year. Two companies which ran Mr Gallagher's Salon des Saveurs restaurant in Dublin and Conrad's Kitchen in Sligo were wound up in the High Court last July.
Both limited companies were registered in the names of his wife and his mother Evelyn.
In November, Mr Gallagher stopped operating two other restaurants at La Stampa in Dublin and, in a parting described as "amicable", moved to the US. Both TV3 and the producers of 'Head Chef' -- Sideline Productions -- have said they did not have a falling out with the chef.
"He was seen as a major TV talent," TV3 said in a statement.
"His personal affairs though were a major stumbling block and it was agreed that there was no point in investing once again in a TV series with Conrad if there was a chance that legal, tax or financial issues arose in the future.
"We have been in touch since he left Ireland and supportive of any efforts he was making to build a career elsewhere and as part of that mentioned that we had sent over DVDs for US producers interested in his on-screen talents and that Ben (Frow) had written a letter in support of his efforts to work or to open doors in television in the USA."
Mr Gallagher moved with his wife Candice, a former South African beauty queen, and their two sons to the US last year, but suppliers claimed they were left out of pocket.
Mr Kettyle, who runs the high end Kettyle Foods in Co Fermanagh, was left with an unpaid €7,000 bill.
"That man (Gallagher) sat in front of me and told me he to my face how much he appreciated what my company was doing in supplying quality high-end produce," Mr Kettyle told the Irish Independent.
"But it was all a pack of lies. Conrad Gallagher has the best business model going -- don't pay your suppliers, don't pay your rent, don't pay your taxes and don't pay your staff. It was outrageous.
Mr Gallagher is no stranger to controversy. He left South Africa in 2009 with debts estimated at more than €170,000.
In 2002 he was acquitted of stealing three paintings from a Dublin hotel after spending time on remand in a New York jail.