Our new Head Chef, Sam, is already making a splash, combining the best of Scottish cuisine, with a range of dishes from around the world. Born and brought up in Edinburgh but with a Tunisian heritage, Sam has gained cooking experience with so many different cuisines, it’s no wonder he’s got such a broad repertoire!
Both Sam’s parents are from the north of Tunisia and although they’ve been here for many years, they still maintain their own olive farm back home in Jendouba, with around 500 olive trees. Every year Sam’s family pick their own olives, even producing their own extra virgin olive oil on-site! He says the difference between his family oil and shop bought oil is like night and day!
While growing up in Edinburgh, Sam was inspired to cook by his parents, his mother cooking traditional Tunisian food at home for 8 children(!), whilst his Dad experimented with traditional Scottish food as well as a host of different flavours, picking up tips and hints from chefs he worked with in the hotel industry.
Surprisingly though, Sam chose to pursue a career in aeronautical engineering and so went off to study technology when he left school. Food was clearly in his blood, though, and Sam realised that engineering didn’t interest him as much as being in the kitchen. He swapped to study hospitality for 2 years instead and never looked back.
His first job as a baker for Druckers Vienna Patiserie in Birmingham meant that some of Sam’s creations were destined to be enjoyed by lucky passengers on Concord, as well as for members of the Royal Family.
He then went on to join the Carlton Highland Hotel for 3 years as a Commis Chef – that’s a trainee chef for those of us uninitiated in chef speak! Apart from learning a lot more of the basics of cooking, he also made his TV debut by appearing in an advert for Labour’s New Deal – a programme he was proud to be part of.
Sam went on to be Chef de Partie (a trained Commis Chef) at Standard Life for three years, catering for up to 3,000 clients and staff a day. And then it was Head Chef all the way, working for a few years each in a real variety of restaurants.
He helped to open Caribbean Connection, Edinburgh’s first Caribbean restaurant. Amongst others there was Acunthus on Princes Street where he served traditional Scottish food in a bistro style, Candy Bar where he created a fusion of international flavours, particularly British and Thai, and Bad Ass Bistro in Rose Street, where he produced Scottish food with a south american twist!
With his incredibly broad experience, he is now creating a fantastic range of dishes here at Edinburgh Training and Conference Venue, combining Scottish cuisine with different flavours and spices from around the world to arouse your senses.
Understandably, one of his own favourite dishes originates from North Africa. Ask him about traditional Tunisian Cous Cous – a dish that incorporates lamb, chick peas, raisins, whole carrots, potato, courgettes and cabbage!
And when he’s not in the kitchen, Sam will be spending time with the other love of his life … his wife and three daughters. With their ages ranging from 3 up to 13 they keep him on his toes!