“I like a busy kitchen,” executive chef Sam Bowser tells me, as his team get ready for a full lunch service at The Wild Rabbit in Kingham.
“There is a lot going on here, it’s pretty relentless – the kitchen covers the bar, terrace, The Chicken Shed, rooms and a busy restaurant. It’s a machine. So it’s about consistency more than anything else because we are always on people’s radars and we want it to stay that way.”
“I have a better work life balance here. I have a six year old son and wanted to be around more.”
Yes business is booming at The Wild Rabbit where the pub’s stellar reputation and additional rooms meaning tables are always in demand there.
And Sam is massively responsible for that. A year into the job now, the time has raced past. Having hit the ground running in December 2021 (to replace Nathan Eades), he soon made his mark by implementing the new bar snacks and chalk board menus to distinguish between the pub and restaurant, as well as creating new dishes that reflected his own culinary bent.
“What do I cook? My sort of food. I’m at my happiest when I’m in the kitchen creating dishes”
“What do I cook? My sort of food. I’m at my happiest when I’m in the kitchen creating dishes,” he says.
“Apart from that it just needs to be delicious. No really, that’s the key. Essentially its classic French because that’s my background, and seasonality, locality and ingredients are key (we only sit down and write the menus when we know what produce we’ve got available), but being delicious is of paramount importance and our menus reflect that.”
“Restaurants are like theatre, and the atmosphere in the dining room here is brilliant”
So where does Sam’s love of food stem from? “I’ve always loved eating and one of my grandmas loved cooking. But more than anything I love watching it all coming together -when the dish goes out into the restaurant and everyone is working for the same goal. Restaurants are like theatre,” he smiles, “and the atmosphere in the dining room here is brilliant.”
However, for a while it looked as if Sam might go off and become an engineer after leaving school in Lincolnshire. When that didn’t work out he started a job as a kitchen porter in a local Italian restaurant and loved the buzz.
Led by the Michelin guide he then applied to some of the country’s top restaurants, working his way through Le Gavroche, Hospital Road, The Square, Le Manoir, Whatley Manor, Dormy House and Llangoed Hall, as well as seven years in Sydney, before landing back in The Cotswolds.
“when I got to Le Gavroche I didn’t know what fennel was and thought scallops were sliced potatoes”
“I remember when I got to Le Gavroche I didn’t know what fennel was and thought scallops were sliced potatoes,” he laughs.
He was also the personal chef for Lord and Lady Bamford (who own the Wild Rabbit, Daylesford, The Maytime and The Fox at Oddington), so knew the kind of food they like. “I have a lot of love and respect for them and knew what I was getting myself into at The Wild Rabbit when I was offered the job, and what they would expect.”
“And I always kept in touch with people here, mainly at Daylesford, because I love the place and the connections and the people. The access to Daylesford’s ingredients and market produce is incredible.
And now here is he is. So how does he cope with the pressure? “When you are a chef you you are putting yourself out there with every plate of food and therefore open to criticism and that comes with the job,” he shrugs.
“But I also have a better work life balance here. I have a six year old son and I wanted to be around more.”
The access to Daylesford’s ingredients and market produce is incredible.
As for the elusive Michelin star, Sam says it used to be the only thing he yearned for. “I’ve matured since then. I’ve realised that consistency is just as important because there’s no point having a Michelin star if only three people are eating there. So my main drive now is to grow the team.”
And with that Sam is off, back to work, back to the kitchens to do what he does best and start preparing for a sold out lunch service, doing what he does best.
The Wild Rabbit, Kingham https://thewildrabbit.co.uk