Chef profile - Neil Bentinck of Skosh in York

Skosh opened in 2016 in a newly refurbished Grade II-listed building in York, just beyond Micklegate Bar.

Neil pre-lockdown at Skosh in York.

The award-winning restaurant is in the talented hands of renowned chef-owner Neil Bentinck who describes his menu as diverse and showcasing a precise yet playful style of cookery, which I feel is an oversimplification of his food. Yes, it’s playful, but it is also striking in the sheer expanse of influences Neil draws on from across the world, not least from Japan, the origin of the restaurant name. It is hardly surprising that Skosh has quickly gained a national reputation and almost cult status for sensational, inspiring cooking.

What was the first dish you cooked? I had to ask my mum and she says it was cow pies a la Desperate Dan from The Dandy. She had saved my cookbooks from my childhood, where I had started writing recipes when I was around seven. There was also a strawberry and meringue crush, bacon and potato hotpot, filo mince pies, and of course, the customary Rice Krispie cakes and butterfly buns.

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Where or who do you get your culinary inspiration from? My father was born and raised in India before moving to England. He was a gastronome and a great cook. My grandma was a devoted cook and baker so, naturally, my mother is too. Family meals at my aunties in Leeds were always fantastic, from a veritable Indian feast to a banging roast dinner. I have been fortunate enough to travel a bit, too. I spent time in Australia, Asia and other parts of the world, which cemented my passion for eclectic Asian flavours. Professionally though, there are so many great chefs out there that I respect, although a standout is David Thompson, an expert in Thai cuisine.

Skosh has become one of York's best restaurants.

What was your first cookery book? My first “Show Me How’ cookbook – when I was four. As a young adult, I remember Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef vividly.

Who would be your three dream dinner guests, and why? Muhammad Ali (imagine the stories), Will Ferrell and Gal Gadot.

What is your guilty food pleasure? I do try to eat healthily at work, so when I’m off I sometimes enjoy a good lamb shish kebab with yoghurt, pickled chillies and chilli sauce. Also, I love a big cheese board with all the trimmings.

What is your favourite ingredient? I can’t name just one, so here are my top three – soy sauce, chillies, and basil.

And, finally, what are you doing during this enforced break? First and foremost, it is family time. I have two boys at home (aged five and two), so it can be full on – in a good way. It is so important to spend some quality time with my family. I’m assisting a local group in York called the Supper Collective, which was set up by the Pig and Pastry cafe in Bishopthorpe Road to give out free meals every day to help the vulnerable within the community at this difficult time. We are giving meals to York Hospital staff as well. There is plenty of admin tasks to do for the restaurant and planning the ultimate return of Skosh – with change comes opportunity.

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