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Dr Foster star and ex-chef Neil Stuke heads to Jimmy’s Festival, Ipswich, this weekend

Actor Neil Stuke will be appearing at Jimmy's Festival this year. Photo: Contributed

Actor Neil Stuke will be appearing at Jimmy's Festival this year. Photo: Contributed

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Acclaimed screen and stage actor Neil Stuke heads to Jimmy’s Festival this weekend, but he’s no stranger to East Anglia.

“We have friends in Felixstowe and we love Felixstowe Ferry. We’ll walk down the golf course to the ferry and back. Sometimes I’ll run it. We always go the other way past the beach huts for a out at The Fludyers Hotel. It’s a beautiful town.”

The twice BAFTA nominated actor has starred in TV series such as The Sins, Grafters, Trust, Game On and many more. He’s starred alongside the likes of

Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Lena Headey and Tom Hardy among others on the big screen.

Neil’s perhaps most famous for his theatre work. He cut his teeth in the mid 1990s at The Royal Court, The Bush and The Hampstead. His West end credits include Mojo, Blue Orange and taking over from Mark Rylance in Boeing Boeing.

“There have been so many high and low points. The real low was getting the chance to work with one of my heroes, Stephen Berkoff, but the play failed. It was great to work with him but it just didn’t work. Silk was incredible and no one predicted the success of Dr Foster, but my highlight was working with Pete Postlethwaite for a whole year on The Sins. Incredible.”

His acting career won’t be the only topic during his appearance at noon on Saturday in The Aspall Kitchen. Food has been a passion of his long before appearing 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 Jimmy Doherty on the Cookshack 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.”

• Jimmy’s Festival, at Jimmy’s Farm, Wherstead, runs July 22-23.

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