Phil Upton

Taste Buds meets Phil Upton, Head Chef at The Butchers Arms in Abbotskerswell

Chef Interview

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Phil Upton and his wife, Victoria, took over the Butchers Arms in September 2012, having decided to leave their restaurant in York to live the village life in Abbotskerswell.

When did you first realise that you wanted to be a chef?
I became a chef by mistake. I just walked into Barnsley College and asked what I could do without any qualifications because I didn't do too well at school and also I have dyslexia. The answer was hotel and catering, so I signed up, started working in the kitchen and I got the bug.

Can you tell us about your early career?
Where did you work before coming to the Butchers Arms? In my career I have worked in many notable restaurants around the country in London, Reading, York, Norfolk and in France, where I learnt my skills and trade.

Why the move to Devon?
I discovered Devon to be my favourite place, with its rolling hills and its fantastic local produce. You took over at the Butchers Arms in September 2012.

What changes can we expect to see?
When my wife, Victoria, and I took over, we were asked what we would change and the answer is not much. I just want the Butchers to be a good eating and drinking place and to bring the food into the 21st century by putting our own twist on classic pub dishes. You are an award-winning chef.

Can you tell us about your awards?
I first got my 2 AA Rosettes at 26 years old working at the Grange Hotel in York and I have kept them ever since. I was also runner-up in the Yorkshire Restaurant of the Year awards in 2007.

How would you describe your approach to food and cooking?
Keep it simple and use top ingredients. Do not confuse the plate with too many flavours. I always use fresh produce and strip it back to its bare essentials – why not come and eat at the Butchers Arms and see the modern take on pub classics!

What are your favourite locally sourced ingredients and why?
I don't really have a favourite ingredient. I just prefer to use things that are in season and that are top quality and to give it the respect that it deserves. I do like to use things that are versatile and can be used in starters, mains and puddings. Things like figs and other fruits go well with fish and meat but also make a fab dessert.

Aside from your own restaurant, where do you most like to eat out locally and why?
I do like to eat locally and support our local restaurants and pubs, and I like to see what they are up to, to help decide what else Victoria and I can offer.

Who is your Devon food hero and why?
I don't really have a Devon food hero, but I keep up with what Michael Caines is doing at Gidleigh Park.

The Butchers Arms
Slade Lane
TQ12 5PE
01626 360731
Stacey Sheppard

Published 2 January 2013

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