What inspired you to become a chef?
My love of cooking with my nan. Her life revolved around meals, eating and great hospitality. Everybody was welcome and all were fed.
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…
I studied at Central Sussex College in Crawly, where my Lecturer Chef Pugh really inspired hard work. Whilst studying I worked in a few local hotels but I really started to learn when I went to Ockenden manor.
Chef Stephen Crane played a huge part in my early learning and from there I went to Gidleigh Park, where Michael Caines’ hard work, dedication and ability to create balanced flavours was a huge influence throughout my career. From Gidleigh I moved onto the Bath Priory and ran my first kitchen where I stayed for 7 years.
What can guests expect from the menu at Ballyfin?
Clean, tasty, fresh unfussy food and service. Food which should be enjoyed. I’ve never really been one for cooking to a rigid style and as I get paid to bring pleasure though feeding people, sometimes I need the flexibility to look past the menu.
Many of our guests stay with us for four or more days and if someone fancies something in particular we will do our best to make it for them.
What’s your favourite spring ingredient?
It’s impossible for me to pick just one so….. Morel and St George mushrooms, green and white Asparagus, wild garlic, pheasant egg…
Do you have any culinary role models?
I take inspiration from many people, Sue Williams’ for example, General Manager of Whatley Manor. Her ability to organise a team and her commitment to the industry is truly inspiring. I could talk shop with her for hours.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
Surround yourself with people who have more knowledge and skills than you do. Then learn from everyone, the KP to the General Manger, they all have something to teach. When you want to quit, stop, take stock, then push yourself to work harder, it will be worth it.
Describe your cooking style in three words
Full of flavour.
What’s next on the cards?
No sleep; Emily, my wife, and I are about to have our first child.
Try Sam’s dishes for yourself at The Ballyfin
Words by Sophie Ritchie