On one of the first days of spring sunshine this year, Vic’s & The Vine bar and restaurant in Prestwick had slowly started to fill with shorts and t-shirt-clad visitors, eager to make the most of the occasion.

Occupying a plush leather booth further inside and dressed in contrast with monogrammed chef whites and was chef Brian Maule, who had taken a break from his kitchen duties to speak exclusively with the Herald almost a year since news of the closure Le Chardon d’Or sent shockwaves through Scotland’s hospitality industry.

The Herald: Pictured: Chef Brian Maule prepares to host a special dinner service at Vic’s & The VinePictured: Chef Brian Maule prepares to host a special dinner service at Vic’s & The Vine (Image: Buzzworks)

Now settled in a new consultancy role with Ayrshire-based group, Buzzworks Holdings, he said: “July last year was far from the best time of my life.

“We had spent 22 years building our name, so closing was painful, and it took a few months for me to get my head around it all.

“I still don’t think I’m actually over it: it’s more about trying to deal with it and move on.”

READ MORE: Renowned Scottish chef secures new role after high-profile restaurant closure

The Herald: Pictured: Maule has said that joining Buzzworks feels like a 'homecoming'Pictured: Maule has said that joining Buzzworks feels like a 'homecoming' (Image: Buzzworks)

After more than two decades on West Regent Street, the loss of a bonafide culinary institution quickly became a cautionary tale of just how much was at stake if even the most established businesses could not be saved.   

When the restaurant fell into administration, Maule declined any offers to speak with the press, instead releasing a measured yet heartfelt press release that held nothing back in detailing just how difficult the current climate had become for his team.

“We have tried so hard to fight against the financial burden of the ‘new normal’ world we live in’ but it has – for now – forced our hand.

“Our business simply can no longer be sustained under all of these pressures,” the statement read.

READ MORE: 'We tried so hard' city centre restaurant closes with immediate effect after 22 years

Asked to expand on the challenges that currently face Glasgow city centre’s restaurants and bars, the chef was reserved in his response, making it clear that he has no interest in pointing fingers or adding fuel to any politically charged debate.

The issues that he does highlight however tell a tale which has become all too familiar in recent years.

“The industry as a whole is finding it difficult with rising costs of gas and electricity and no rates relief up here compared to down south,” he said.

“The city is tired and in a bad way at the moment.

“It’s not getting the same footfall and then there's the LEZ.

“Until people start going back to the offices it's going to be tough out there and I don’t think it’s a problem that will be solved anytime soon.

“It was a shock for a lot of people when we closed, and we were being held up as an example of how things needed to be sorted.

“It’s a good thing that they were having those conversations, but the reality is that people are hanging on and hoping for change that might not come.”

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Maule’s words hold all the more weight as he speaks of the months leading up to the closure of Le Chardon d'Or which from the outside seemed so unexpected.

He said: “Closing was not a decision that was taken lightly, but I just couldn’t go on with the frustration of not having the answers to the problems we were facing.

“I still think that we had the best restaurant in the city centre at the time and the biggest following locally in Glasgow, so it wasn’t that we were doing anything wrong.

“The closure was very difficult and at first, I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I took it personally and was hurting.

“My wife dealt with the emails and texts which were constant for almost three weeks with requests from radio, TV stations and newspapers who wanted the story.

“When we made it through to the other side, we knew that we had to get back out there and get working.”

The Herald: Pictured: Campaigns such as 'Love Food Feel Good' help to celebrate talent across the Buzzworks groupPictured: Campaigns such as 'Love Food Feel Good' help to celebrate talent across the Buzzworks group (Image: Buzzworks)

In ‘getting back out there', Maule has found a new calling working alongside Buzzworks’ culinary teams and supporting senior chef skills development as well as the quality of food across its kitchens in locations including its native Ayrshire, Greenock, North Berwick, and South Queensferry.

“There was a huge response to us closing on social media and then again when Buzzworks announced I had joined them,” he said.

“It’s a good feeling to know that I haven’t been forgotten about.

“Going around the different venues and seeing how they are run, the standards the company demands, and its different concepts has been really interesting.

“The training that they do internally which includes in-house Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) accredited centre is very clever, and the younger members of staff seem to be taking to it well.

“I don’t think there are many companies that have that infrastructure or are investing in teaching things like butchery or advanced knife skills.

“It’s a massive opportunity.”

Understanding exactly what it takes to make it as a young chef, Maule was still in his teens when he left his Ayrshire home and headed for Lyon, the gastronomic centre of France, to learn his craft.

His abilities and growing confidence brought him to the attention of the Roux brothers, Albert and Michel snr, whose Le Gavroche was the first British restaurant to earn three Michelin stars, in 1982.

Now, he says one of the greatest rewards of his work with Buzzworks is the chance to continue a legacy of inspiring future generations which began 23 years ago at Le Chardon d'Or in Glasgow.

“I started my career in Ayrshire as a chef apprentice before heading to France to hone my skills, so this feels in part like a homecoming," he said.

“With the knowledge and experience that I have, I feel like I can make a difference to the younger generation, and even the older ones who might have hit a wall in their work that they can’t seem to get over.

“It’s all about breaking that down and teaching them different ways of looking at things.

“There’s a lot of stress off my shoulders now being able to come in, do my job to the best of my ability, see people make progress and go home without any worries about staff wages or VAT.

 “As a whole, I’m a lot happier.”  

The Herald: Pictured: Chef Brian Maule continues to inspire future generations in his new rolePictured: Chef Brian Maule continues to inspire future generations in his new role (Image: Buzzworks)

With group campaigns such as 'Love Food Feel Good' launched in June last year, these up and coming talents are celebrated alongside the best of Scottish suppliers with special events including foraging trips and culinary masterclasses.

Head of people at Buzzworks Holdings, Nicola Watt, said: “With more than 40 years in the business, operating at the highest level, Brian’s knowledge will be invaluable as we look to not only continue delivering an exceptional experience to our customers, but looking behind the scenes at streamlining our operations to ensure the highest standards possible.

“Despite challenging conditions for everyone within the industry, working with the likes of Brian will help ensure our continued success, optimising our ways of working so that we are best equipped to deal with the increasing external pressures, whilst maintaining and building on our well-regarded reputation.

“We look forward to seeing what added benefits Brian brings over the next six months.”

For more information on Buzzworks Holdings visit their website, here.