Eat Leeds brings you some down N’ dirty vegan food. From the 11th to the 19th of August over 50 restaurants (and counting!) are giving you the chance to sample the best of their menus with a single purchase. From vibrant tapas selections to two and three course set menus, this is a great way to try somewhere for the first time or revisit an old favourite! Taking a look at the Facebook pages for this incredible week it quickly apparent that there’s more offers available than you can reasonably try in a week. So, our suggestion is to try an unreasonable number, they all look too good to miss out on! We’ve been chatting to Sam from Knave’s kitchen. Vegan food is more mainstream than ever before so it seems now is the time to experiment and try new flavours. Whether that’s you the public, or the chef’s looking to keep ahead of the crowd. This week we chatted to Sam to see how he’s got to where he is and what the plans are for the future at Knaves Kitchen….. Here’s what he had to say… Meet Sam – Knave’s Kitchen Q – Where are you originally from? A – Originally I am from Nottingham, the home of Robin Hood but I have lived in Leeds for over 6 years now so I feel like Yorkshire is my second home. Q – When did you first become interested in cooking? A – It all stated really for me cooking at home with my mum. We used to bake cakes and make soups all the time, my family are big gardeners and pretty much all of our food came straight out of the back garden or from our allotments. Fresh, organic nutrition was the food philosophy I was raised on and that passion for the heritage and origin of food carried over into the kitchen for me. I loved to experiment with flavors and ingredients I had never heard. I think travelling the world, experiencing different food cultures and having a fascination for food shows on TV laid the foundation for my love of food and cooking though. Q – Who was your biggest inspiration? A – This is a really tough question. So many people have inspired me along the way but my initial hero’s were Marco Piere White, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey and the absolutely genius Heston Blumenthal. Their stories and personal journeys lit me up as a young man and then seeing how they worked with food and created theatre and art from humble ingredients changed my perspective of food and what it represents. I think my decision to pursue it as a career and lifestyle though came from the chefs featured on Chef’s Table. The pioneers and champions of modern gastronomy like Antony Bordain, Massimo Bottura, Grant Achatz , Dominique Crenn , Alain Passard and my personal hero Alex Atala. This is just a few of the people who inspired me to become a chef. Q – What changes have you seen, if any, in the way the restaurant world has changed? ie have peoples tastes changed, do people expect more nowadays etc..? A – The landscape of food has shifted drastically I feel. The way people relate to food and the multi-cultural cosmopolitan cities we now inhabit have meant peoples tastes have become more eclectic and their food ‘horizons’ have broadened. The shift towards conscious consumption of food has been fascinating to observe and be part of, vegan and vegetarian cuisines are being adopted and respected and restaurants are pioneering these in their menus and adapting their offerings to align with these new ways of thinking and eating. Definitely the street-food, pop-up culture has exploded with brands and owners choosing to be more mobile and versatile. Fusion cuisines and gastronomic experimentation are still pushing the cutting edge of food and I feel diners and chefs alike are rising to the challenge. Q – What has been your biggest success to date? A – Biggest success!? Well I feel like becoming a head chef at 24 after only 2 years in the industry is certainly a step in the right direction, I still have so much to learn but I am focused, driven and passionate about going all the way. First Vegan Michelin Star by 2023 , that’s the goal. In terms of biggest successes though, being part of my mentor and close friend Billy Collins’ first 5-course vegan fine dining experience in a beautiful woodland in Leicester and delivering a stunning , innovative menu to 90 diners over 2 days was a pretty epic task and one the whole crew rose to, a pleasure to be a part of and only a taste of things to come from the epic Honest Edibles. Q – What’s the must try dish on your menu? A – It has to be the “Mill Hill Special” – this tip-of-the-hat to Leeds legendary Mill Street Kebab House is just everything you want in a donner but with a conscience. Grilled Seitan, Pickles, Hummus, Slaw, Salad , Raita and Extra Chilli Sauce Bro! What else does a mouth need?? Q – What would be your tip for upcoming chefs? A – My advice would be get the basics right. Graft . Get yourself into a really strong kitchen and work your socks off. Respect the craft and be eager to learn. Get yourself some good knives and look after you knees, try as many foods as humanly possible, develop your pallet as much as you can and be creative. I am a big one for reading the rule book… then using it to light a fire and roasting off some new ideas over it… That’s my 2 cents for what its worth anyway… Q – What are the 3 main components to running a successful restaurant? A – Team: Having the right people on the bus is the number one thing. The right mix of skills and people who are willing to give everything for you is rare but absolutely fundamental to success in the restaurant game. Quality Ingredients: You can have the best menu’s, chefs, venues and customers in the world but if your ingredients are second rate- Forget excellence and forget sustaining. For me it is all about finding the best produce, knowing where it’s from and being invested in knowing its heritage and getting to know how farmers, growers and suppliers create the best. This is pivotal to quality food and a successful restaurant Communication: The source of all problems but the solution to many too. Communication between every stakeholder in the business can make or break restaurants. Internally and externally, the better we communicate , the better the beast operates. Chef’s , FOH, Managers, Owners, Suppliers and Diners all need to be able to have dialogues that are productive and yield the best outcomes for everyone. Q – What do you hope people think when they’ve dined with you? A – We have had some incredible feedback as a team at Knaves. I think people really enjoy the chilled dining experience of Oporto’s newly renovated bar, the whole team are really welcoming and they have an eclectic music taste so that always sets a good vibe. In terms of the food I would hope that people feel all their foodie needs are satisfied and the flavors appeal to even a seasoned meat eater. I think as a chef the dream is that people will appreciate and recognise the passion, time and love you put into your food and I would hope that shines through with our menu. I’m constantly innovating and bringing through fresh ideas and I hope people get a chance to taste all of these new dishes. Q – If you could summarise, what do you believe good cooking is all about? A – Good cooking for me is about passion, experimentation and having a fascination for ingredients, cuisines and cultures. If you can juggle all three of these elements and explore them all in your food then you’re destined for great things. People don’t just want to eat food, they want to be surprised, inspired and excited by flavors they haven’t encountered before. I still have so much to learn about what makes a great cook and how chefs can elevate food beyond the arena of restaurants and dining experiences. For me I think chefs have a unique opportunity to showcase and champion a new way of eating, a new way of living and even start a revolution within communities and cultures about our relationship with food, people and ultimately our wider ecosystem- planet earth. Q – Finally, are there any things in the pipelines at Knaves Kitchen that people should look out for? A – Definitely! As well as getting to be part of Eat Leeds Restaurant week which is awesome, we have an incredible 5- Course Fine Dining extravaganza coming up on 23rd August where we are partnering with Stone Brewing to create an evening of Berlin inspired street food ad beer, delving into the history and heritage of brewing and fast food. It’s going to be epic. We also have some festivals coming up too! Chow Down and Eat North ! keep your eyes peeled!