A CHEF who was furloughed from his job during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown has launched a new brasserie with help from villagers in Holt.

Dean Toon has opened his new restaurant, The Hidden Chef, in a unit at St George's Works, off Silver Street in Trowbridge.

Already, customers who have dined there are leaving rave reviews about his food and vowing to go back again.

Mr Toon says he feels "humbled beyond belief" after nine villagers in Holt clubbed together to raise more than £27,000 to help him launch his new business.

"This place has come from all the residents in Holt who invested in me. It has been paid for by them," he said.

Mr Toon, 44, from The Common, started delivering staple foods and cooking for private dinner parties after being furloughed from his job as executive chef at the four-star Blunsdon House Hotel in Swindon during the first lockdown last year.

He said: "One of my very good friends asked me what I wanted to achieve in life and I said 'I would like my own restaurant'.

"She drew up a business plan and showed it to some of her friends whom she knew were financial investors.

"They each invested roughly£3,000 to raise £27,500 on a loan basis and I raised £8,000, which was enough to start the restaurant.

"I am humbled beyond belief. I just sat there and cried. I was shell-shocked that people could have enough faith to invest in me.

"Now I am excited and nervous. I have a point to prove and don't want to let them down. They have put a massive amount of trust in me and I want to repay that faith."

The award-winning chef, who won Bath's Chef v Chef competition last year, now has plans to make The Hidden Chef a success over the next 18 months and then open three more restaurants.

"This is plan one of four," said Mr Toon, who is backed by his wife Vicky Hole, who works for a luxury country house hotel in Bradford on Avon.

The couple have a young son William, seven, and Mr Toon has two elder children, Dylan, 20, and Alishia, 15, from a previous marriage.

The Hidden Chef opens from 12-2pm and from 5-11pm Wednesday to Sunday, for lunch and dinner.