Chef Spotlight: Sam Talbot

Sam Talbot

Sam Talbot has made quite a name for himself on the culinary circuit after placing third on Season 2 of the hit cooking competition show Top Chef. He’s held executive chef positions at several restaurants, including The Surf Lodge in Montauk, as well as The Williamsburg Cafe in Brooklyn. Recently, he opened up a restaurant of his own, Pig + Poet, in Maine. The North Carolina native is also a published author and has written about Type 1 Diabetes in his book The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries, based on his personal experiences. So why is he here, on JERSEY Bites, you ask? That’s an easy one. To help raise awareness about living with diabetes and making healthy food choices, Talbot hosts an online cooking series through New Jersey-based Barnabas Health, called Life Is Better Healthy.

We recently caught up with Talbot for a Chef Spotlight.

JERSEY BITES: What is your earliest food memory?
CHEF SAM TALBOT: My earliest memories are being with [my] grandmother cooking in her kitchen—mostly breakfast, sausage, eggs, et cetera. Always early in the morning and always with local ingredients from the farmers market. 

When did you realize you wanted to make cooking a career? Was there an “aha!” moment?
Yes! I was a production chef at Dean and Deluca at 15 or 16 years old. There was an older cook who was about 10 years older than me, he took the job very seriously and was always carrying around Larousse Gastronomique. One day I asked him what it was and he explained the book’s importance. At the end of the week, I took my full paycheck and bought the book, read every recipe, and realized this was what I wanted to do. 

What is your cooking style?
Fresh, clean, focused, always inspired, and using local ingredients wherever that may be. Food that makes sense for your body and the region you are in!  

What is the greatest opportunity that has come to you as a result of cooking?
It is actually happening right now! I have started my own foundation, with a couple of wonderful partners, called BEYOND TYPE 1. At BEYOND, we aim to be provocative, inclusive and disruptive: putting a face on diabetes, clearing up misunderstandings about who is affected by Type 1 Diabetes, and eradicating the stigma that comes from living with a chronic disease. We recognize there is a different narrative to be told: that of a strong empowered community living a powerful life beyond the diagnosis. We also recognize a future free of Type 1 Diabetes is possible, and we are here to make certain that future materializes. We are here to disrupt diabetes.

What is the most memorable meal you’ve had, what did you eat, and where was it?
I’ve had numerous memorable meals, but I’ll tell you about this one. I was in Rome in a tiny eight-seat restaurant when I was around 27. It was basically the living room in someone’s home. There were three grandmothers cooking for us, and I had two dishes: a single cut pork chop with mushy peas and octopus with olive oil and balsamic—simple, fresh, and clearly made with love. The experience was unforgettable. 

What is the best advice you have to share with young people interested in becoming chefs?
Always play with your food!!

What is the one staple food you always have in your cupboard at home?
Almond butter. 

What is your favorite comfort food?
Fried chicken.

If you could have dinner with any three people, living, deceased or fictional, who would they be and why?
My grandfather because I miss him and he’s everything, my mother, of course, and Brigit Bardot, just for fun!   

Are you working on any upcoming projects our readers would be interested in learning about?
I’m working with a wonderful company, OmniPod, which makes an amazing insulin pump that really helps me live a more active life with diabetes. It’s a revolutionary product and is the only pump with no tubes connected to it. I can surf, and be active with much more ease. In addition to OmniPod, I’m working with Barnabas Health to launch cooking series, Life is Better Healthy, on their website. They are also making amazing strides in the medical community, and particularly in New Jersey with diabetes research and treatment. I am proud to be a part of both organizations. 

Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I’m currently in Camden, Maine, opening my new restaurant, Pig + Poet, which is very exciting and in a beautiful part of the country. Also, look out for a new book [by me] in the future, from Time Inc. Publishing. 

Pig + Poet
52 High Street
Camden, ME 04843