Chef Focus: Matt Sampson, Ynyshir

February 14, 2024

We sat down with Matt Sampson, Sous Chef at Two Michelin-Starred Ynyshir Restaurant in Wales, to talk all things Japan and find out about his culinary journey...

SS: Tell us about your restaurant, how long it’s been running and what the core concept is?

Matt: Ynyshir is very much an ingredient led restaurant, Gareth has been working hard for 10+ years to get the very best produce in the world to Wales and showcases it as much as possible.

SS: How long have you been a chef and where did it all start?

Matt: I’ve been cooking for almost 8 years now which isn’t long at all really, starting off as a pot wash like everyone else but I think my career really started when I went to work for Peter at Casamia in Bristol just after I turned 17, an opportunity I’m very grateful for still.

SS: What are the biggest trends in the industry this year?

Matt: Everyone seems to be going mad for doing a pasta dish on their menu at the moment.

SS: How is your relationship with SushiSushi and how long have you worked together?

Matt: I’ve known Stu since I was about 18 and over the past 5 years always been in contact through different restaurants I’ve worked at, we have a mutual love of cars which helps and his knowledge is my go to on anything Japanese

SS: What Japanese products do you currently use in your menu?

Matt: It’s easier to say what’s not Japanese to be honest! 

SS: If money were no object, what Japanese ingredient would you always have on the menu?

Matt: Has to be the bluefin tuna, the levels of fat you get on the belly is outrageous and after a week in our salt chamber it’s on another level.

SS: How has using Japanese ingredients influenced your menu?

Matt: A lot of people think Ynyshir is a Japanese restaurant but once you’ve been here you see how it’s not at all and we more-so use Japanese products as a base for our seasonings, things like soy and rice vinegars from Japan just happen to be a superior product and that is our ethos.

SS: If you could travel to Japan tomorrow just for food, what would be the top things you’d want to do or try?

Matt: I’d be straight to Jiro Ono restaurant if I could, I remember watching dreams of sushi a few years ago and it was a true example of hard work and excellence.

SS: Why do you think Japan is so admired in the West for its cuisine?

Matt: I think it’s still so new, only in the past 5-10 years have we really started to get an understanding of these products and people like sushisushi having the accessibility has really opened that door for everyone.

SS: Sake or Beer?

Matt: Sake for sure, I’ve never been a massive beer drinker anyway but in the last year or so I’ve been introduced into some unbelievable sake which has peaked my interest.

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