An Interview with our Sous Chef, Sam
Chef Sam is a true Bay Area local, born and raised! He currently resides in San Leandro with his adorable pup, Ava. Sam was trained formally as a pastry chef and sometimes gets to flex that muscle - no pun intended - with our occasional limited-run pastry specials such as the beignets and cookies!
Chef Sam and Chef Paula have worked together for over 5 years now to lead our house-made Luke's Local program - all of the delicious ready-to-eat food you enjoy from our deli or Grab N Go selection.
We hope you learn a little more about what Chef Sam does here at Luke's - thanks for reading!
EMILY: So, first of all, I was going to ask you to talk a little bit about how you got into cooking professionally and like what made you want to become a chef?
SAM: Huh, that's a good question. So I grew up with a family of entrepreneurs as a child. My mom had a restaurant as a kid that I literally grew up with, grew up in like from a baby.
And then my aunts also had businesses and restaurants and on the east coast., that we would venture to every year and just like to hang out for the summer. Every year until we were, you know, nearly teenagers. So I really got a chance to like dabble around in food. I was serving customers at like 13
So it was like family's business. And that was really good. I actually hold a lot of those memories, like very dear, because you don't really appreciate having a family business when you know, when it's happening.
EMILY: Yeah, it's definitely something very impressive, but I can see how, if it's your only context, you're like, this is just normal. And then later you're like, wow, that was actually very cool.
SAM: Yep, that was the thing. I actually didn't even consider being a chef until some years later because when I was a kid, I really wanted to be a lawyer because I love to argue. So it was like, I really was between like being a lawyer or like being a chef eventually. But I really love making food. I really love all the small nuances behind creating things. And for me, that was it. That was a catalyst.I actually started baking for people at church when I was like 12 or 13. And people were buying cakes from me or, you know, whatever it was, I’d make anything. If someone wanted to order, I would make it. It wasn't from scratch at that age.It was more about fulfilling it and then going and reading the instructions and making it. But I kinda made it my own - you know, with the box cake mix I’d like, instead of using oil, I would use butter. So that was my spin on it.
EMILY: I love that.
EMILY: And so my next question was about - I know you have a background in pastry specifically. I was going to ask like, what drew you to that? And when did the love for pastry come about?
SAM: I think the love for pastry has always been there because I, I just have an aptitude for sweets and I love desserts.
And so for me when I went to culinary school I knew a lot about pastry making. So in the 101 class the instructor had to recreate the curriculum because it was just, it was too basic for us, any of us.
And so that was nice, you know, to be able to learn with people that had my same skillset.
EMILY: Y'all were like, we can make these cookies with our eyes closed.
SAM: Haha. Yes. I love challenges. So yeah, I think savory is like, it's a niche, but I think desserts and sweets are my preferred method of cooking. I can do both. And I enjoy having a balance of being able to like - have a full Thanksgiving spread but also a full spread of all the sweets.
EMILY: It's so interesting because I would - because you are so good at savory - I would have never guessed that, like, but then when I think about my favorite savory dishes of yours, when I really think about it, I'm like, oh, they all have like fruit components and they all have like sweet components.So that's kind of cool to see the connection there.
Okay, so, last question, moving along to Luke's - what was the process of finding Luke's Local and what drew you to Luke's and ultimately made you want to say yeah, I want to work for these guys.
SAM: One, I think the transparency of Luke's Local is something that really brought me to this company.
When I first staged with Nick Rappaport some years ago, that was my first chance to be able to see the backside of the commissary and I innately loved it. The fact that everything was made from scratch from start to finish nowadays in the industry, that is so rare. Often you see kitchens take canned food, or partially pre-prepared food and then turn them into finished products to save time and money. And that’s not really executing food in the right manner. Or even appreciating food in the way that it should be appreciated. So yeah, the first day I saw how the kitchen worked, I absolutely loved it.
I have loved Luke's Local ever since. I think that we do something that is very natural here at the commissary, and that provides people with food that is not only made from the heart, but also thought out - from each ingredient that we place in these meals or prepared salads or in your grab and go items or the deli, there's intent in everything that we make.
EMILY: And that's pretty unique, honestly. Like I can't think of a lot of, I can't think of any other grocery store that has an in-house program run the way that you and Paula and Dustin run this one.
SAM: Thank you!
EMILY: Yeah, that's very cool. Okay. Well, that’s going to be it for today Sam! And thank you so much. I know it's hard to get away from the kitchen, so I really appreciate your time.
SAM: Thank you, Emily. Anytime. Thank you. I'll see you soon.