‘We’ve got bigger and better things to come’ says award-winning Suffolk chef
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Hot on the tail of being crowned Chef of the Year 2020, and with The Brewers at Rattlesden given the title of Best Newcomer 2020 in the Eat Suffolk Food & Drink Awards, Sam Sturman is celebrating.
The foodie (whose favourite hobby is eating his way around the world’s finest restaurants), has recently been named chef-patron of the pub-restaurant, which is one of the fastest rising stars on the Suffolk food and drink scene.
Here Sam reflects on his career so, far, food loves and hates, and what’s in store for The Brewers.
Q: Congratulations Sam – you must be delighted. What’s your vision for the pub now you’re more heavily involved in its running?
A: We just want to cook the food we love really well. And if the accolades come...they come. We won’t chase them, we’re just focussed on what our clients want. We are very well known already for the food we do and we want to maintain that and change things here and there where we can. So we’ve extended the outside, and hopefully we’ll have a little herb garden with raised beds, growing some of our own produce.
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Also, I’ve been learning over the last year and a half to be a master chocolatier. When I’ve built up the team I want to concentrate on that. My brother made me two boxes with the Brewers logo on and I think to be able to go around to the tables at the end of a meal, offering my homemade chocolates from those boxes will be a really nice thing. It's something I’m really passionate about. Eventually I hope I’ll be selling boxes of chocolates for customers to take away too – so they’ll come for dinner and buy a box or to two to take home.
Q: The industry is suffering a staff shortage at the moment. What advice would you give young people thinking about going into the kitchen?
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A: If you’re a student, now’s the time to go out and eat in as many new places as you can. That’s what I did. Go out and appreciate the dining experience you’ve had, and think about what would make you want to work there. I’ve never taken a job before I’ve eaten at a place so I can understand the service, the clients they have, the kitchen, the food – all from a customer point of view. If you don’t enjoy it why would you want to work there?
Q: What’s your first memory of food or cooking?
A: My family eat out all the time and that was really the start of me going to dine in different restaurants. That’s how I learnt. When you’re a student you get to know the basics of cooking, but being a chef, you need to go further and experience what other people are doing and see other techniques. I get so inspired by eating out. I’d prefer to spend £200 one meal than four meals for £50.
We’ve been going to Italy for the last few years because my dad does a competition out there and is a record holder for how many hours you can spend on your bike in a day. He goes out for a week every single year and we join him and drive out to find the best restaurants. We ate 26 courses in two days once. One of the best was Massimo’s (Osteria Francescana in Parma). We tried to get a table there for seven months. The bill was 2,100 Euros for the three of us but it’s probably the only meal we’ll ever have there. I look back and the whole experience was unbelievable.
Q: What’s always in your fridge?
A: Milk....or vodka!
Q: If you could eat anywhere in the world – where would you go?
A: Probably Benu in San Fransisco. I’ve been to America four times but only to Orlando with my family. I’d love to go out for a couple of weeks and go to Orlando again, because I love that kind of thing, then drive to San Fransisco and eat there for a day – the same as in Italy. When I’m on holiday I always spend the extra cash eating out.
Q: And where do you like to eat locally?
A: Probably The Unruly Pig. Or The Northgate or Leaping Hare. They’d be my top three.
Q: Do you have a food hell?
A: I hate tofu. That’s probably it. But I don’t tend to say no to anything. You can say you don’t like something, but I think you need to try everything from the chef who cooked it’s perspective and aspect.
Q: Is there anyone in the food world you admire?
A: Probably my old boss to be honest, James Close. He used to be a semi-professional golf player and his dad had the Raby Hunt. He entered the Masters with no training at all, but realised he was nowhere near good enough to compete at a high level. So he gave it up and went to the Raby Hunt. He did what I did, going out to eat in loads of places first, and spent a serious amount of money, then came back and changed the restaurant completely. Two years later it had one Michelin Star, then two. He’s got no training in a professional kitchen at all and purely learnt from understanding techniques when he was eating out, then practising with trial and error, making tweaks here and there. He has a 19-course tasting menu that could take you anywhere in the world. One dish could be French, then it could be Japanese or Mexican. It’s a really cool place.
Q: What’s your worst kitchen disaster?
A: I went down the stairs with three to four kilos of honey and spilt the whole tub. It was dripping everywhere. That’s hard stuff to clean up.
Q: Is there one ingredient you’d insist everyone tries?
A: Wild strawberries. I love them. They have a lot of perfume and a completely different taste.
Q: What’s your tipple of choice?
A: Probably a G&T with Hendricks gin.
Q: Which dishes do you recommend off your current menu?
A: I’d choose the beef fillet main course. You have the fillet, then we take the brisket and barbecue it and cook it for 24 hours. Then we make spaghetti out of potatoes and wrap that with feuille de brick pastry around the outside, so it’s nice and crispy. We season that with burnt onion powder, turned and glazed asparagus and barbecued Suffolk tomatoes from five minutes down the road. We cook them heavily and turn them into a puree which goes with the dish really well.
And for dessert probably a little tart made of mango, yuzu and coconut. In the weather we’re having now you want to sit out with something that isn’t too heavy or hearty. This pudding is really refreshing.
Q: Why should diners visit The Brewers?
A: It’s a destination. The food I’m doing now is nothing like you can get anywhere else nearby. Yes you can get fish and chips and a beer, but you can also come for a fine dining experience or date night. It’s not a pit stop where you drop by and don’t remember anything you ate. I want people to remember their time with us.