Celebrity chef Sam Stern reveals his favourite place to eat in Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 April 2016 | UPDATED: 15:32 27 April 2016
To launch our new foodie Q&A column, we catch up with young York cookery writer Sam Stern
With seven cookbooks under his belt, myriad TV appearances on BBC Breakfast, GMTV, Sky and (most exciting of all) Blue Peter, and a string of columns, recipes and features in magazines as diverse as Teen Vogue and – your favourite and ours – Yorkshire Life, it’s difficult to believe that Sam Stern is still only 25.
He published his first book, Cooking Up A Storm, in 2005 at the age of 14, and has since gone on to write six more, including his latest, Too Good To Share (Quadrille, £20).
It’s been a while since we pulled up a chair at his kitchen table, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to catch up and talk about his life with a few bite-sized questions.
What’s your first foodie memory?
‘It has to be the smell of my mum’s treacle bread as it baked in the Aga. The smell takes me straight back to my childhood!’ (If you want to try it yourself, the recipe is on Sam’s website samstern.co.uk)
Do you come from a family of cooks?
‘My mum was a great home cook; she taught me a lot of what I know today. My brothers and sisters (he’s the youngest of five) give it a good go too, but they’re probably not obsessed to the same level I am though.’
Who inspired (and inspires) you in the kitchen?
‘My mum first and foremost. If you get kids cooking at a young age and teach them the basic skills then they can carry this through their whole lives. Then people like Keith Floyd, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Rick Stein.
‘Eating out is also a major inspiration and when I travel I like to eat as local as possible to really absorb the food culture. I went to Sri Lanka a few years ago and was blown away by the food on offer at road side cafés which cater for truckers and motorists. Unbelievably good curry.’
Is there a particular dish from your childhood – perhaps something seen as seriously unfashionable now – that you still crave today?
‘The thing I crave from my childhood most has to be a roast dinner with all the trimmings. It transports me back to those days where all the family were crowded round the table, feasting. I really don’t think you can beat this as a nostalgic dish.’
Is there a particular dish from your childhood you can’t quite believe you ate (and wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole now)?
‘There are plenty of things that I have eaten which I have regretted instantly, not so much from when I was a child but from when I was old enough to know better. Jellyfish, for example, is pretty average. The texture is similar to elastic bands – yummy!’
What was the first dish you mastered?
‘I think it must have been chocolate and orange cookies or a full roast chicken. Still firm favourites to this day.’
How has your cooking changed over the years?
‘Experience is everything when cooking. I have messed most things up now, so I know how to fix them or how to avoid it in the first place.
‘Your palate also develops over years of tasting so I can more accurately predict what goes with what. I also attended Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, which really helped hone my skills. Cooking with really experienced chefs made me more precise and focused much more on my presentation.’
What is your signature dish now?
‘I’m not sure I have a signature at the moment. I like creating new dishes. Experimenting in the kitchen is great fun because it makes you try new technique and hone old skills which may not get tested if you are cooking the same thing over and over.
‘Having said that I make a cracking triple chocolate tart.’
If you’re eating out in Yorkshire, where’s top of your list?
‘The Yorke Arms is a beautiful place. You go on a gorgeous drive past Harrogate and then are treated to the most fantastic food. It’s a must-try for a special occasion. They also filmed an episode of The Trip there with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, which I loved.’
What Yorkshire produce should we brag about?
‘Asparagus and rhubarb are the classic contenders for the best produce. I think we rival most counties on producing amazing ingredients in every category though. God’s own country and all that.’
You’re hosting your dream dinner party – who do you invite and what do you serve?
‘My family, friends and Keith Floyd. I’d probably serve a full Christmas dinner because everyone is so merry at that time of year.’