Sam Tuchband says he came to professional cooking later than most. But claims it’s the “rush” of being a chef that drives his ambition. Most important of all, it’s a passion for both the ‘science’ and the ‘art’ in cooking. In this article, Sam shares a flavour of both in his career approach, together with a few gourmet dishes he’s recently created.
A big reason for wanting to become a chef
Today, Sam is a senior sous chef at casual fine dining French restaurant Franca Brasserie, Potts Point, Sydney. But his passion for cooking was actually kickstarted in his childhood by a certain Gordon Ramsay. A name which crops up from time to time with chefs we speak with here at Life on the Pass. “I spent a lot of my early years attempting to cook recipes from chefs like Gordon Ramsay”, says Sam. “He was definitely one of my idols and a big reason for wanting to become a chef in the first place”.
However, Sam started on a very different career path. He studied for a degree in Product Design. “I only started cooking professionally when I was 22 years old”, but Sam was determined to make up for lost time. “I was just four months into cooking when I got a job in a 2-Michelin star restaurant. Since then, I’ve never looked back, and I’ve only ever worked in fine dining”.
Learning from the big name chefs
Sam also says he only wanted to “learn from the best”. He mentions some of the ‘big’ names he’s worked with such as, “Phil Howard, Nuno Mendes and Alyn Williams in the UK, as well as Joel Bickford and Nelly Robinson, here in Australia”.
Flavour is the number one priority
His cooking experiences among such distinctive chefs has clearly helped in forming Sam’s own individual-minded food philosophy.
“Simplicity and minimalism are key for me”, says Sam emphatically. “If something doesn’t work in the dish, flavour-wise, then I don’t believe it should be there. Ultimately, for me, flavour is the most important and number one priority. Elements are only there as long as they complement the dish as a whole”.
Sam also believes in using as much of the ingredients as possible. “It just isn’t true for proteins. A lot of vegetables, when prepped, are just thrown in the bin because they aren’t attractive, but they can bring a lot of flavour. Rather than being often considered rubbish, if treated correctly, vegetables can be delicious”.
Really love seeing people enjoy your creations
But Sam is always curious to explore and says he “really enjoys both pastry and the hot kitchen – creative cooking is one of the best parts of the job”, and declares emphatically, “The ‘rush’ I get comes also from seeing people enjoy your creations. This is particularly true with both seeing and hearing people enjoy your food”.
Sam details a few of his latest culinary ideas. “Some dishes I’ve created include a whole barbecued rock lobster tail served with a classical lobster bisque – a smooth, creamy, highly seasoned French soup”.
In another example, Sam puts together dashi braised octopus with black grapes and brassicas. Dashi is a family of stocks used in Japanese cuisine, which forms the base for soups such as miso, clear broth and noodle broth.
A further flavoursome use of vegetables sees pork presa (an oval cut from the shoulder renowned as the ‘tastiest’) served with black garlic and collard greens (loose leaf brassicas).
Finally, Sam makes mention of a selection of snacks including, scallop tartelette, caviar croque monsieur, and spanner crab and crumpet.
At a disadvantage in the early stages of my career
Sam says that coming into the industry so late has made him an extremely competitive person. “I always considered I was at a disadvantage in the early stages of my career.
Plenty of senior chefs were younger than me and had worked in the industry for longer. This drove me to push myself to be better, learn more, and do more. It makes achieving goals much more satisfying”.
It’s the biggest method of managing my mental health
The ‘high’ of achieving goals seems to help with dealing with the everyday pressures of the kitchen too. “Having something to look forward to, especially, travel-wise” is also a big assist, according to Sam.
“It’s the biggest method of managing my mental health. Travel is my second great passion, so every few years I’ll take a few months out of work to go and explore new places. Just like most people, I enjoy a meal or drinks out with friends, along with trips away and the good old outdoors. If the weather’s nice, I’ll take my motorbike out for a spin, away from the city or to the beach”.
Ambition has always been key for Sam. However, his experience on the pass clearly shows in his advice for young chefs keen to make their way in the industry.
Be a sponge, take everything in
“A lot of people are obsessed with climbing up the ladder as quickly as possible”, says Sam, but cautions “they must first create a strong enough foundation to justify them being in that position”. Sam echoes many of the chefs we ask about the No.1 way to learn the trade, “Knowledge is key, question everything”. Sam urges young chefs to seek out the more experienced chefs as a way to learn. “Be a sponge, take everything in”.
Recalling his own time when starting out, Sam says, the biggest help for him was to, “Learn as much as you can as early as you can. Always ask why things should be done that way, or why things happen the way they do”, adding, “once you know why things work the way they do, it’ll allow you to get more creative further down the line”.