A former City College Norwich student has been appointed head chef at a leading boutique hotel in Scotland.

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Phil Woodcock, 32, who grew up in the village of Salhouse, is now in charge of the kitchen at the award-winning four-star Smiths at Gretna Green hotel.

“I’m delighted at the appointment as it really gives me the opportunity to stamp my personality on the range of dishes we offer our diners,” he said.

Mr Woodcock’s formal culinary career started when, as a young teenager, he began washing pots at Salhouse Lodge near Norwich which served bar meals and had a busy carvery.

“Later, I learned how to prepare vegetables and I also worked at the Broads Hotel in Wroxham while I was at Broadland High School doing my GCSEs,” he said.

After high school he went to City College Norwich on day release while working full-time in pubs and hotels.

“Ultimately, cooking is about the eating experience for the people who travel and pay to sample your food and I always want to hear their opinions,” said Mr Woodcock, who cited his grandparents as major culinary influences.

He added that his passion for food and fresh produce from helping out his grandfather on his allotment when he was a child growing up in Norfolk.

“I helped dig up and pick his vegetables, made wine from some of his grapes and it made me realise from a young age the importance of
picking your own and sourcing local produce. I learned very early in life about the seasonality of fruit and vegetables.

“My grandfather’s name is Bernard Smith – he was on my mother’s side of the family – and I always used to joke that I was going down to Smiths Café whenever I went for lunch so it’s ironic I am now working for Smiths hotel.

“When I wasn’t with my granddad I was with my grandma – Janet Sims on my father’s side of the family – licking out the bowl when she was making cakes. She also kept goats and chickens so I learned about fresh milk and eggs.”

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