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The Experimental Chef

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Meet Chef SarahWhen owner Tim Foster began to put plans in place to open beach side restaurant, Three Buoys, in Appley, Ryde, there was only one chef he had in mind to run the kitchen.

So when the doors opened just over 10 months ago in May 2013, Sarah Clark began her tenure as Head Chef at this now popular Solent-facing restaurant.

Words by Cath Ouston. Photography by Christian Warren.

Sarah first ignited her culinary interests catering in the yacht clubs in Cowes. To begin with, cooking was simply a way of earning some money whilst she studied; eventually however, Sarah realised that she loved her part time job more than the Environmental Science degree she was studying and so she left to pursue her love of cooking.

Sarah’s career has played out across a broad range of cooking environments from top quality catering jobs, to roles in pubs and hotels serving hearty meals and carvery style menus. One of the most fulfilling roles she has undertaken however, was the five months spent working in the Loire Valley in France in a classically French style restaurant. “It was in the middle of nowhere and we were surrounded by vineyards and cows,” explains Sarah. “I learned completely new techniques and styles of cooking and loved every minute. Up until that point I’d only worked in very British style kitchens so that experience really broadened my skills and made me more adventurous, it still influences my style today.”

“What I love most about cooking is the creativity,” explains Sarah. “I’ve always loved art, especially the more precise, design driven side; so the way I cook is definitely a reflection of that. I find it really satisfying to create a precisely ‘designed’ plate, one that not only tastes great but looks amazing too. I get such a buzz when I’ve been experimenting and it turns out even better than hoped AND looks great too, it’s the best feeling.”

“Our main menu here at Three Buoys is all about making sure there is something to suit all tastes, but it’s not too safe and we like to include slightly more adventurous stuff too. With our specials though, we can really have a bit more fun and experiment with new flavours, new combinations, try out more unusual ingredients and we get to see what our customers like. I especially enjoy creating our taster menus as we can really push the boat out for those. One of my favourite dishes was a Deconstructed Lamb Jalfrezi which consisted of lamb rack which was rough coated in spices and served with cumin potato cake, jalfrezi sauce and a raita panna cotta. We sprinkled very finely chopped onions and tomatoes over the top as a fun way of representing the typical take away curry. It went down really well!”

10 months down the line, their strong reputation has spread and Three Buoys in firmly on the map as a restaurant of choice. This all stands them in very good stead for 2014. “We’ve learned so much over the past 10 months that we can really build on for next year. We’ve got a really good idea now of what our customers love, we know how adventurous they’ll be. I’m really looking forward to some more experimenting and finding new ingredients and techniques to try out for them. I especially loved the taster menus and they went down really well so we’ll be doing more of those, in fact the next one is on 6th February so not long to wait. We’ve got some great ideas for Valentine’s too, we don’t want it to be too clichéd but there’ll be something special to keep our customers happy. Working here is such a great opportunity for me to create the food I want to make, it’s the first time I’ve actually run a kitchen myself and I’m really lucky that Tim trusts me and gives me the freedom to get on with it.”

What do you do to relax? I love spending time with my family, I’ve got a five year old nephew who’s brilliant, and he really makes me laugh. But to be honest, it’s not the sort of job where you’re desperate to get out the door at the end of a shift. We’re a pretty close team and get on well, so we often sit and have a drink together before we head off home.

What do you eat for breakfast? I’m not a big breakfast eater! When I do eat it, I prefer savoury foods likes cheeses and meats. I don’t like to eat sweet things that early in the day.

Any foods you don’t like? Definitely not whelks! I find them too chewy and they’re pretty big, so no, I’m not a fan! That did surprise me actually because I love most shellfish, even cockles and limpets which you’d think would be pretty similar!

Anything you won’t eat? Did I mention whelks? No seriously, I will actually eat anything once! I’m quite inquisitive and want to try new things all the time so there’s nothing I won’t at least try.

What does style mean to you? As a chef you go through phases of different things influencing your style, whether it’s an ingredient, a technique, or the place you’re working at. I really like bringing different styles together to see what works and what new things you can create.