Chef of the Week: Sam Karle, Head Chef at Dakota Hotel in Manchester

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I was fortunate enough to be here from the start as the opening Head Chef. I started January 2019, so just over 2 years.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
Through family, there are a few chefs in my family. As a child I was always interested in cooking. I did my qualifications with city and guilds whilst working full time, most of my learning however came doing it first hand in the kitchen.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The freedom to experiment new things and learning on a day to day basis. One of the most enjoyable feelings is when you have a fully booked restaurant and lots of happy guests knowing all the hard work in the end was worth it.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter, salt & garlic. Three of the most basic but crucial ingredients.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Thermomix is essential, you just cannot beat it.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Sustainability, people are getting more and  more in tune with this and I feel this will continue to become more and more prevalent in the future.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
The biggest mistake I see from young aspiring chefs is lack of longevity in their roles  – applying themselves to their trade in order to fully understand the workings of a kitchen. Sometimes chefs miss the opportunity to build blocks of knowledge – instead they’re perusing the title and the rewards.  My piece of advice would be to slow down, read more and focus on being best you can be in the role you are in  – the future will take care of itself.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Summer, because some of the British produce is at its best at this time of year. Using local ingredients when its at its peak is the most rewarding for the team.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
We had a beef fillet, morel mushrooms, snails , artichoke & watercress dish on last year.   This was one of my a favourites – it’s probably one of the most technical dishes I’ve delivered to date.  The different techniques of cooking in this dish really helped the younger chefs refine their skills in these particular areas.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Reading books for new inspiration, dining out and past experiences. I try to dine out as often as I can to try keep in touch with the food trends.  I encourage my team to be as creative as possible, encouraging them to influence the menu, I see it as ‘our’ menu not my menu.

Who was your greatest influence?
Aiden Byrne. Working with Aiden made me change my mindset towards my career and fully respect food. Aiden gave me my first real chance in a great kitchen and gave his time to make sure I was learning the right way.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Grant Achatz, Sat Bains and Tom Aikens. Three highly talented chefs who have achieved so much and should be admired.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Alinea- it uses so many unique ingredients

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Ben Murphy – Head Chef at Launceston Place – I think we are only just starting to see the start of Ben and he will be huge in the future.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Mana – I think with Manchester’s dining scene exploded in recent years. Its great to see Manchester have its first Michelin star in a long time,  which will help continue the growth of the food scene here in Manchester.