Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has lost control of his Australian restaurants after voluntary administrators were called in to rescue the collapsing company.

Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group Australia reportedly appointed accounting firm BDO on Monday, before immediately closing down Jamie’s Italian Canberra.

In a last-minute sale, Brisbane-based Hallmark Group has taken over management of the five remaining Jamie’s Italian restaurants in Sydney, Parramatta, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

The UK chef took back ownership of his Australian restaurants just 12 months ago, buying the Jamie’s Italian restaurants from the receivers of the failed Keystone Group.

Since then, Oliver’s empire has hit turbulent times with his UK-based company Jamie’s Italian Limited owing debts totalling $125 million, as reported by Hospitality. In February, the group announced a restructuring plan to close 12 Jamie’s Italian restaurants in the UK in a bid to salvage the company.

Oliver made a public appearance on Tuesday in Milan, where he was attending the EuroCucina exhibition at the Milan Furniture Fair, and discussed the restaurant group’s recent failures.

“If you love what you do – failure is a part of moving forward,” Oliver said during a media conference.

“I have closed many things, not just a few restaurants, many many things – cookery schools – but I still have one today. I have closed businesses where we design products, but I still design products today – the point is what do people want, and what do they need, what do they want help with? I can think I know – but I don’t know.

“If I open a restaurant in Portugal and it is not relevant – it will close. If it is relevant – it will live. It is the same with anything – it is the same with product, it is the same with a plate, it is the same with a recipe.”

Despite the sudden closure of the Canberra restaurant, Hallmark Group confirms plans to expand the Australian portfolio under its new management.

“We’ll be working closely with Jamie and the UK team, staff and local suppliers to keep driving the business forward and delivering exceptional experiences across the country,” a spokesperson says. “Hallmark are actively seeking new suitable locations for the next Jamie’s Italian.”

Ben Shaughnessy, COO of the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group Australia, also remains confident in the Australian restaurants.

“Australia has and continues to be one of our best-performing international markets, and after a short period of in-house management, we are pleased to be partnering with Hallmark,” he says.

“The team brings a huge amount of experience and passion for our brand, from collaborating with the key suppliers to our food philosophy, and we look forward to working with them as they develop the Jamie’s Italian restaurant offering across Australia.”

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