This month, we decided it was about time you hear from the innovator himself, Sam Owen (owner and head chef of Salted Orange Food Company. We asked Sam 10 questions about his passion for food, his journey and essentially what makes a great outside caterer…
Hi Sam, thanks for taking the time out to speak to us today!
Since 2014, Salted Orange Food Company has expanded massively and caters for all types of events. We want to know what makes you so successful and for you to let us in on a few great cooking and food tips…
Tell us about how you got into catering and your running your own business?
“So I began showing an interest in catering when I was around 11 years old. I loved watching cooking shows like Ready Steady Cook because it was fast, creative and dynamic really. It stood out for me. It was only ever going to be a teacher or a chef. I wasn’t very academic and my mother told me I had to find a trade when I left school, so left me little choice! Then I got an apprenticeship with a local business which is still to this day an inspiration. Since then I diversified and grew, and 10 years later I am running my own company!”
What do you love most about your job?
“Every day is different. Even when I’m not at work I’m thinking about work and looking to improve. The only person I need to justify myself to is myself and I can be creative and try new things with little fear. If it doesn’t work it doesn’t work!”
What makes you different to your competitors? How do you incorporate your out of the box ideas?
“Our mantra is “think differently”. It’s all about being able to give people the experience that they want rather than what is easiest to me. This puts me a step above the competition because we are not dictated by anyone which is much more bespoke and personal for our customers.”
You have a wealth of experience catering events. Tell us a bit about the variety… for example the largest event catered for, spicing up corporate events, and weird and wonderful dreams you have made happen.
“We’ve done private dining from 2 people in a range of homes right up to 8000 people at the Lost Village festival. We’ve done up to 6 course weddings with up to 280 guests! We’ve done charity events for 400 people. It’s so diverse and every day is different so we have learnt to adapt to any situation really. For example, vegan menus, different cultures like Indian, Sri Lankan and fusion foods which are very popular now. Anything that gives us a challenge is good, keeps my ideas flowing.”
Where do you see Salted Orange Food Company in 5 years’ time?
“I would like to see it national with multiple outlets to become a staple for not only Lincolnshire but Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, the North and London. Quality outside catering.”
What is your favourite dish that you make and why?
“I have evolved into a more “low and slow” chef. I have studied food in every form possible, but it is my belief that time and patience is the key to anything. Being able to do beef slowly over the day infused with lots of herbs, spices and flavours, leaving to set, allowing for presentation – there is nothing that can be beaten in that respect.”
Name 3 essential ingredients you can’t live without
“Thyme, onion, star anise spice which tastes like liquorice”
You talk a lot about how food is key in connecting and making memories. What memory comes to mind?
“Scientists have proven that we have triggers in the mind, some akin to music depending on your culture and many other factors – we all have different triggers. Food is one of the key triggers that everyone has in their mind. So, linking memories and back stories to food is very easy, be it iced finger buns from the bakery, cream and strawberries or even fresh ones picked with family, beans on toast, a meal your dad made that was shockingly bad… being able to utilise this to cater events like weddings is very special and an unparalleled sense of quality – allowing the experience to be shared with all guests. The example I give to bride and grooms is when me and Lizzie got married, we had beetroot and white chocolate lollypops because we had it on one of our first dates at a restaurant and it’s always stuck with us as something different and special.”
What is your best cooking tip for a novice?
“Read the recipe constantly and break it down into sections. Organise yourself before you start and go over the instructions constantly.”
You have recently performed a TEDX talk about sustainable catering… well done! What do you think will be the next trend in food in the UK?
“I believe that it is going to become a more openly diverse area where we can all share a mixture of tastes, fusions and dietary requirements. Less focused on a traditional meat and two veg approach and more open to large, quality meals utilising plant based diets. As we all know, many more people are becoming vegan these days but in my opinion, our country will never give up bacon!”