Luke Cockerill has stepped down as head chef at Rabbit in the Moon

Michael O'Hare's culinary protege has left his position as head chef at Rabbit in the Moon.

Luke Cockerill (pictured right) - who had been nominated for 'Chef of the Year' at next month's Manchester Food & Drink Awards - revealed today that he was leaving the 'space-age Asian fusion' restaurant with immediate effect just eight months into the job.

He told The Caterer he was "looking forward to the future and exploring different opportunities.”

The sudden announcement comes at a peculiar time.

Earlier today, trade website The Staff Canteen posted a video interview with Cockerill, in which the chef clearly expresses his desire to remain working with O'Hare at the restaurant. He says: "Everything I'm thinking ahead is to do with this restaurant because there's so much to do..."

So why the sudden about-face? Perhaps all is not well on the top floor of Urbis.

170306 Rabbit In The Moon Plum Stones
170110 Rabbit In The Moon 40
Rabbit in the Moon opened on the top floor of Urbis in January

Word from the restaurant is that O'Hare (pictured top, left) - who scooped a Michelin star last year for his Leeds restaurant, Man Behind The Curtain - will now take the Rabbit by the ears as MBTC remains closed due to a relocation.

He told The Caterer: “The past few months have seen a much bigger involvement not just from myself but from the whole team at the Man Behind The Curtain.

"My team – or family as it has become – are pumped to be cooking in Manchester and will continue to mould the Rabbit in the Moon into a restaurant of international acclaim.

“On a personal note Luke has been integral to the opening of both restaurants and I wish him well in his future pursuits.”

In 2016, O'Hare was appointed creative director of GG Hospitality, founded by former Manchester United stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs. The group operates the Hotel Football and Cafe Football brands, and will soon relaunch Manchester's Stock Exchange where O'Hare will open two further restaurants - Are Friends Electric and The Man Who Fell To Earth.

But in losing his head chef, with four restaurants to oversee and Michelin looking over his shoulder, could it be O'Hare who falls to earth with a thud?

Luke Cockerill Chef Rabbit In The Moon
Luke Cockerill has stepped down as head chef of Rabbit in the Moon

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