JAMIE Oliver has a new food fight on his hands as he competes with an ice-cream parlour and a fish restaurant to continue using a Southend Pier cafe.
The Echo can reveal the TV chef is in talks with Southend Council over continuing to use the former Pier Head Cafe, in which he filmed his current Channel Four show Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight Club.
But a number of individuals, including an ice-cream parlour, a fish restaurant and a fish and chip shop, are also in discussion with officers about taking it over.
Councillor Derek Jarvis, cabinet member for culture and tourism, said: “There have been a number of discussions ongoing with officers. I’m sure there is more than one outcome that could come out of this.
“It’s good that there is a competitive element.”
Southend Council refused to reveal how Mr Oliver, who finished filming for the four-part series on the pier last month, planned to use the cafe, but Mr Jarvis said the talks between officers and his production team were “advanced”.
The Naked Chef tweeted a picture of the inside of the cafe, decorated for the show, on Wednesday, saying: “Sweet old Southend-on-Sea love it.”
Mr Jarvis said the show, which focused heavily on Jamie and his farmer friend Jimmy Doherty’s Essex roots, helped to raise the profile of Southend and the pier after several mishaps, including fires and boats crashing into it.
But he said he wanted people to be able to use the cafe and would not be in favour of it simply being a film set.
The Tory councillor said: “People have expressed to me that they would like it to be returned and the public should have access to it. It should be a supporting facility to what goes on in the cultural centre.
“I’m happy to listen to a range of options. I can only settle on the one that best all round meets all the needs.
“If Jamie wanted to use it for what he is doing but make it possible for it to be used in the public domain that would be a good solution.”
Mr Oliver’s production company declined to comment.