Sandy Park’s summer signing enjoyed a dream debut as he delivered a mouth-watering first showing at the Exeter Chiefs Season Launch Dinner.
In his first outing as Head Chef at Exeter’s Premier Conference & Banqueting Centre, Sam Billson showcased his culinary talents to the full, producing an eye-catching menu that delivered for the 470 guests in attendance.
Devon born-and-bred, the 27-year-old was already well versed in the heat of the Sandy Park kitchen, having worked previously as Chef de Partie and Sous Chef under Denis Turner, who had been Head Chef for the past five years.
Now Sam is ready to take centre stage himself, taking on the demanding role of feeding the masses who come to visit at the home of the reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions.
“I’m really excited about the challenge and the demands of the new role,” said Sam. “Having already been part of the Sandy Park team for a number of years I know what’s expected of the place and the high standards that have been set.
“This is, however, a huge opportunity for me and one that I am really looking forward to taking on. To be in charge of the Sandy Park kitchen and the great team we have here is a huge honour, but with it comes great responsibility.
“Obviously my aim is to put my mark on the whole kitchen, the menus and the food we are producing, but it’s also a case of building on all that we have achieved in the past under Denis. He set a very high standard and now it’s my job to take that standard onto another level.”
Having been introduced to cooking at the age of 15 by his mum Rose, Sam knew from that point that his career would always be that of a chef – and having qualified after three years at Exeter College, his career has since taken him to roles at the Mercure Southgate Hotel, The Lazy Toad at Bramford Speke and the Magdalen Chapter, before he made the switch to Sandy Park.
The future, though, is hugely exciting for the father of one, who as well as dealing with the busy day-to-day demands of Sandy Park, also has regular match-day crowds of over 10,000 people to cater for, as well as what looks like being another record-breaking Christmas period for the venue.
“It’s never quiet here, but that’s how we like it” jokes Sam, who will be overseeing a team of six chefs and three kitchen porters. “The key is being organised and having the right plan in place, so that if you do have any issues along the way, the process is still there for us to deliver for all of our customers".