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Viper 'wasn't collecting debt from me' -- Conrad

CONRAD Gallagher has slammed reports that The Viper was collecting a debt from him shortly before the criminal was arrested at the chef's eatery.

The 40-year-old has described as "very upsetting" media reports linking him with Crumlin debt collector Martin Foley, known as The Viper.

Gallagher, who has a starring role in TV3's Head Chef, blasted any suggestions that The Viper may have been demanding outstanding debts from him prior to Foley being arrested.

"There are several people in this building that he [Foley] could have been in to see," he told the Herald. "The whole thing was very upsetting for my family, my wife."

He added that he would be asking his lawyer to look into the matter.

The hot-tempered chef also vowed to take legal action in the wake of the claims about the notorious criminal being arrested at his Dawson Street eatery.

Debt collector Foley, who has been shot at four times, was taken in to custody while at the controversial chef's restaurant The Dining Room at La Stampa.

Foley arrived with a female companion and words were exchanged before gardai were called, who arrested him for questioning before releasing him without charge.

The Dining Room, which opened earlier this month, is owned by La Stampa boss Louis Murray but he has asked Gallagher to take over the running of the restaurant.

The red-haired chef is also running Salon des Saveurs on Aungier Street as well as Conrad's Kitchen in Rockwood Parade in Sligo.

Gallagher now appears to have got his Irish businesses firmly back on track after being declared bankrupt by a South African court in August 2009 after his restaurant and consultancy business went belly-up.

His cars, two properties and his homes' contents had to be auctioned off to pay debts of around €200,000 that he owed to a bank and a supplier.

The following month saw him return to his native Ireland with South Africa model wife Candice and their two children for a fresh start and he's now in charge of three different businesses.

But he was best known as being the youngest Irish chef to ever earn a Michelin star, clocking up two by the age of 27 for his work on Peacock Alley and he also worked in Lloyd's Brasserie, Ocean and Mango Toast. However, he hit the headlines in 2003 after he was arrested in New York amid a blaze of publicity and extradited to Dublin to stand trial for the alleged theft of three Felim Egan paintings worth €10,900.

He was subsequently found not guilty of all charges.