What’s cooking? Phil Skinner, The Three Blackbirds, Woodditton
In this new Muddy regular, our favourite chefs spill all about their work, lives and top tips. Dishing it this week: Phil Skinner, head chef at The Three Blackbirds, Woodditton
Chefs are busy people, but we managed to pin down Phil Skinner, head chef over at the recently reopened pub The Three Blackbirds on the Suffolk/ Cambs border that sadly burned down in 2018. Out of the ashes rose a magnificent new pub that is part of The Chestnut Group and is fast becoming known for its fabulous food thanks to Suffolk-born and bred Phil’s leadership. The setting is pretty special too. Not your average village pub, with gorgeous interiors and pops of fun colour everywhere. Until you get a chance to head there yourself, you can get a flavour of the pub and the passions behind it with our brand new quick-fire feature focusing on the best chefs and their foodie passions. Ready Phil? Annnd, go!
How did you become a chef?
My Mum and Nan were a big influence for me when I was younger. We would always have big family meals and I wanted to be the person doing the cooking, not just the eating.
What was your first job?
My first job in the kitchens was while I was at college. I worked at a Greene King pub in Ipswich. It wasn’t the sort of food I wanted cook, but it was a great stepping stone to work every hour. This allowed me to get enough money to get my first car to then be able to move on to bigger and better kitchens.
What has been your career highlight so far?
To be honest I feel that I have had many career highlights as I have achieved everything I wanted to. But becoming a head chef for The Chestnut Group 6 years ago was a great moment, and from there it has been non-stop for me within the group.
How would you describe your cooking style/ philosophy?
Fresh and simple! Let the food do the hard work. I’ve been there as a young chef trying to do six textures of turnip for one dish! Not anymore – now I just keep it simple, fresh and full of flavour.
Most memorable work moment?
Going to the AA Awards when The Packhorse Inn, Moulton won 3 Rosettes – it had been a long, hard first year and it was a great moment to be able to sit back and realise that all the hard work does pay off, you just have to keep going
Have you ever cooked for a VIP or someone famous?
Lots of times, we see a lot of the horse racing community in and around Newmarket. I would say the one person that got all the team excited was when Sir Alex Ferguson walked in for lunch.
Who’s your favourite chef?
There are loads of great chefs out there at the moment. I would say Phil Howard has been a great influence over the last couple of years.
What’s your favourite type of cuisine?
That’s a tricky one as it changes all the time, I would say anything that is similar to my philosophy, be that French, Italian or Spanish, just simple fresh food with great flavours!
What do you whip up for dinner when you’re tired after a day at work?
Honestly my favourite mid night snack when I get home is yoghurt with cereal in it, quick easy and not much washing up afterwards – the best solution I can find after a long day at work.
What are your favourite places to eat in Suffolk or Cambs?
There lots of good places in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire- but being brought up in Ipswich, a lot my favourite places are around there, Milsoms Kesgrave Hall for instance. Although if I’m looking for a great lunch with the wife I usual head to The Weeping Willow in Barrow.
What’s your favourite ingredient and why?
I’m a great meat lover, I’m getting some outstanding beef at the moment from my supplier and cooked properly, seasoned right I don’t think you need to add much else to it.
What’s the best dish you’re serving at the moment?
For me it has the be the Breckland Partridge, turnip and fig. Simple local game dish with great flavours and looks pretty good aswell.
Tell us your best ever cooking tip…!
Dry cook your potatoes for mash like you would for a jacket potato, just wash them and place in oven then scoop out the middle after its cooked, for me makes a much better mash that can be creamed a lot easier to create a smooth tasty mash