Today we talk with Terry Phillips, the proprietor of Mr T’s in Newport.
Hello Terry, thank you for speaking with us today. You obviously run this fabulous sandwich shop in the heart of Newport, but what did you do when you were younger? Were you always in catering?
Yes I started in catering when I was 15 years old, I did my work experience in The George Hotel in Yarmouth and from there I went on to the Isle of Wight College and spent two years there and qualified as a Chef and silver service waiter. I have done a lot of hotel and restaurant catering including working on the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship and the4n just fell into making sandwiches as a living as the job I had at the time, my hours got cut and I needed to be able to make a living. The idea started as to start up a sandwich round and that was nearly 20 years ago….
So you have been here 20 years then?
Well we have been operating as Mr T’s for 20 years but we have been in these new premises from 1998 but we did have a smaller premises just up the road before that between 93-98. The business will be 20 years old in November this year actually.
So here at Mr T’s what is the most popular sandwich that you do?
It does vary from day to day but I would say that tuna mayonnaise and chicken are the most popular fillings and the most popular combination is probably chicken and bacon with mayonnaise. But we do a lot of vegetarian fillings and we have our healthy options menus. We know that there are many people out there that go to various lose weight groups and we try and help those with our healthy options menu as we try and incorporate some of those clubs, which we have found this does help the customer.
The Christmas special has proven to be very popular, we started doing that back in 1995 and we are well known in Newport for our Christmas specials. The fillings are Turkey, Hot Chipolata, Stuffing and Cranberry sauce.
We do like to do our research before coming out to see our customers, and we did, in fact, find a fan page on FaceBook for your Christmas Specials so someone obviously loves them so much they have set up their own fan page dedicated to it….
Really??? That’s news to me… That’s great, perhaps I should think about starting one up myself then in that case.
So when you are not working, do you eat out on the Island anywhere?
Yes, we do like going to Burrs, that’s a nice quiet restaurant and Matt always does a good meal, a nice glass of wine. That is where we like to go. Can’t fault it.
Well Matt Burr of Burrs is also a Menu Venue member and he was actually the first of our Chefs to do the Meet The Chefs. You like eating out and you like your food, but what is your favourite sin food?
My favourite sin food has got to be sweet stuff, cakes. No particular kind just if it is a cake that is good enough for me.
We all like a bit of cake, on the same lines, what is the strangest food that you have ever eaten?
Frogs legs I suppose is quite strange. The texture is just like chicken, oh I like snails too though, try them you might surprise yourself.
Hmm, might give that a miss… Do you do the cooking when you are at home?
No I don’t, that is down to my lovely wife and my two girls, they do the cooking. They cook normal everyday food, roasts, curries, spaghetti bolognese that sort of thing.
Here at Mr T’s what is the one ingredient you could not live without?
Salt! Personally on my own food I love salt, I always add too much, but here it would have to be bread…
Have you ever had any strange food requests, perhaps something that someone has asked for and you thought ‘that’s really not going to work’?
The one that sort of sticks in my mind is Banana and Onion. Which was for a gentleman who came in and his wife was pregnant. But there are many different combinations that we would not think was unusual like Brie and Banana, Peanut Butter and Banana, Peanut Butter and Jam, Jam and Cheese, lots of combinations. I have no idea how people come across these combination, maybe when they have been out of an evening and come home and there is nothing in their cupboards? But they obviously like it as they keep coming back in and asking for it again so it must taste good to them.
You don’t just do baguettes and sandwiches here do you?
No we also do jacket potatoes, salad bowls, rice and pasta salad bowls, soups and we have just started doing hot sausage rolls and pasties too. We also do outside catering for those people wanting sandwiches etc for meetings or other functions like weddings and funerals.
Great, well you mentioned there that you do soups, you are actually going to be giving me your soup recipe for the chefs choice aren’t you Terry?
Yes it is one of the ones that are very popular and it is the Butternut Squash, Coconut and Chili Soup.
Brilliant well we will be trying that out ourselves no doubt. What would you say is the most overrated ingredient?
Avocado, I don’t personally like it, it doesn’t seem to taste of anything to me but some people do like it and we do sell quite a bit of it, prawn and avocado sells very well as does avocado and salad so lots of people do like it, but for me personally it is overrated.
There are a lot of chefs out there at the moment but is there one that you would say you like more than most?
Yes, Matt Burr, he has to be one surely? But celebrity wise I have always liked Jamie Oliver, I love his enthusiasm and the way he cooks, what he prepares and how he prepares it he just makes it look so easy.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I wanted to be a vet but unfortunately the old brain box wasn’t good enough, so then farming was another line I wanted to go down but my careers officer at the time said that because I wanted to be a baker that working outside and working inside were two different things and I had already worked on a farm before so that is when I did my weeks work experience at The George in Yarmouth and the rest is history. The ironic thing is though, when I worked at The George I was doing the bar snacks and I HATED doing the sandwiches for the bar snacks and now here I am making a living out of sandwiches…
What would your idea of food hell be?
I like most foods so that’s hard, probably if I order something and it gets to me and is cold. I guess my worst one would be cold baked beans, I cant do them, they have to be piping hot.
So do you have a favourite healthy food?
I love fresh fruit, I could eat it all day long. Speaking of which we have our fresh fruit smoothies here also.
Well I think that is about all from me, is there anything else you would like to say about Mr T’s?
Just that, thank you to our customers past and present and hopefully some new customers from The Menu Venue and thank to everybody for supporting us over the years.
TAKE A LOOK AT THE BRILLIANT SOUP RECIPE BY CLICKING HERE