He was once a star of Sydney’s restaurant scene, a hatted chef in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, and proprietor of three companies, including a flagship restaurant in the city centre with a $4 million, crystal and silk-clad fit-out.
But the downfall of Becasse's chef and owner Justin North as a businessman was complete on Tuesday when he was banned by the corporate regulator from running restaurants for two years, following the multi-million dollar collapse of his food empire in 2012.
His wife and business partner, Georgina North, has also been banned for 18 months.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission said the couple failed to discharge their duties as directors of three failed companies with the ''requisite degree of care and diligence''.
Good Food Guide editor Joanna Savill said the development was "incredibly sad".
"Justin wouldn't be the first chef to walk away from a business leaving a pretty sizeable debt," she said.
"Chefs are good at cooking but are not always good at running businesses."
It marked a staggering fall from grace for the celebrity chef and food author whose flagship city restaurant, Becasse, had just 25 seats and offered a $190-a-head degustation menu, served on ostrich-skin tables.
The restaurant moved to Westfield Sydney in 2011, where its $4 million fit-out also boasted Swarovski crystal chandeliers, velvet banquettes and an entry corridor clad in silk.
It closed in July the following year after the collapse of the three companies – Becasse, Etch Restaurant and North Food Catering.
It its peak, Mr North's empire employed about 180 people at businesses including cafes, a catering business and a bakery.
However, staff were left owed almost $990,000 in superannuation because the business had not fully kept up with quarterly payments since 2006. Creditors were owed more than $7 million by the three companies.
Mr North made a splash in Sydney’s food scene when he moved here after training with famed chef Raymond Blanc. He opened Becasse with his wife in 2001, fusing French cuisine with modern Australian cooking.
Within two years, Becasse had earned two chefs hats and in 2009 Mr North was named chef of the year by the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.
The Restaurant and Catering Industry Association of Australia awarded Becasse best new restaurant in 2002 and best European restaurant in Australia in 2004.
But behind the scenes, financial troubles were brewing. Becasse and Etch Restaurant may have been insolvent since 2009, administrators Ferrier Hodgson said at the time of the collapse.
ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer said: ‘‘ASIC's power to disqualify directors of failed companies is an important preventative measure used by ASIC to safeguard the public interest.''
The couple have the right to appeal the ban to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
In February, Mr North resurfaced as executive chef at the Centennial Hotel, in Woollahra, where he said he would be offering ''produce-driven comfort food''.
The pub is owned by Anthony Medich, the nephew of property developer and accused murderer Ron Medich.