The twice BAFTA nominated actor & professionally trained chef has starred in TV series such as The Sins, Grafters, Trust, Game On and many more and he’ll be taking to the Woodforde’s Kitchen stage with business partner and chef, Tim Sheehan who are co-owners of Farm Shop & Restaurant, Franklins.
Neil’s no stranger to cooking in front of an audience having been a competitor on Celebrity Masterchef.
“It was an incredible experience and I was the favourite to win. Something happened which was beyond anyone’s control and John Torode fancied Lisa more than me and put her through to the final,” jokes Neil.
“It was a lot of hard work and a lot of effort and I wanted to win it. I took it very seriously. Looking back on it I would have stepped up the food a bit more. We’d just had a baby and my dad had just passed away so I was more than a bit distracted but I think I could have stepped it up a bit. I took it very seriously and was upset but it didn’t stop my passion for food. That will never wane.
“I love cooking for friends and dinner parties. It brings people together in a way that’s so special. Lowlights were cleaning the kitchens at the end of the night as a trainee chef. You’re closing for Christmas eve and scrubbing the kitchen into the early hours of Christmas day. You’ve got to earn your stripes.” He grew up in the restaurant business.
“My dad had a restaurant in Deal after he left the catering corps and worked in the Dorchester and places like that. I went on to Fred’s, a private members’ club in Soho, and cheffed and then became a cocktail mixologist. It was a lot of hard work. I still do a bit of cheffing here and there but it’s b****y hard work.”
Neil had wanted to open a farm shop in Kent but the plan fell through. His long-term friend and business partner Tim Sheehan who owned Franklins Restaurant in Dulwich suggested they open one in the neighbouring shop that had come up for rent.
“It grew from there. I’ve known Tim for about 20 years after working at Fred’s before I trained to be an actor. Tim went off to be a chef and opened a restaurant above The French House and other exciting things and we collaborated and now run Franklins. It’s a brilliant experience.”
Neil and Tim will join Joe Hurd on the Woodforde’s Kitchen stage to showcase some of Franklins’ seasonal produce and talk acting with a bit of cooking thrown in. Saving the independent British pub will also feature. It’s another passion of Neil’s.
“There is nothing more British than the pub, it represents society and community and it’s being wiped out by offshore property developers. It’s up to us to fix. Outside London it’ll be like America, people getting into cars, driving to Tesco and coming home again. I don’t get it. Why would you want your hub of the community gone? Support them, lobby, join our campaign.”