The Davidson Housing Coalition's annual Souper Bowl, happening this year on Feb. 4 at Davidson College, is no challenge for Chef Chris Phillips. He's been a repeat winner at the soup competition, but it's not all about winning. The event raises money for the nonprofit organization's HAMMERS (Hands Around Mecklenburg/Mooresville Making Emergency Repairs Safely) program, and Phillips is happy to give back to the community. The London, England, native and his wife Christina (a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland) have participated in the Souper Bowl for the past seven years. In 2006, they opened Restaurant X (www.restaurantx-davidson.com), an eatery serving a range of recognizable cuisine fine-tuned with fresh ingredients, surprising flavor combinations and house-made sauces.
Creative Loafing: How did you get your start in the restaurant biz?
Chris Phillips: It's a classic story. I started washing dishes at a part-time job when I was 15. There were a lot of things about the restaurant business in general that I liked, so I always had part-time jobs in the industry somewhere along the line. Then I basically decided to make it my career. Although I have to say, originally it assisted me greatly in my real passion at the time, which was traveling. I've traveled a lot, and it's always enabled me to find work.
Where are some of your favorite places to travel?
I love southeast Asia. I love Thai food and the great richness in flavors. I like traveling in Europe because of all the culture and the fact that you can be in completely different cultures within a short amount of time because of the proximity. But I'd say my favorite is southeast Asia: Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and all those places.
What kinds of international fare have worked their way onto the menu at Restaurant X?
Because I'm from England and my wife is from Ireland, people sometimes make leaps of judgment and they assume we're a pub or a fish and chips shop or something like that. We do make fish and chips every Friday and Wednesday for lunch, and I do have bangers and mash and shepherd's pie for lunch as well. But we're very much not an English/Irish restaurant. There's more of an English hint on the desserts than probably any other part of the menu. We have the sticky toffee pudding, which is a very famous traditional English dessert. We also have banoffee pie, which again is very English. It's a play of bananas and toffee with a gingersnap face that has a layer of toffee topped with bananas and crème. Overall, I'd say the emphasis is a little more on seafood, but mostly on fresh cooked, made from scratch dishes with some international twists.