There are certain people you meet who seem to have boundless talent, motivation and energy. Sam Mannering is one of them - a 28 year old with a successful career in both acting and cookery ahead and behind him. We first heard of him when A Year's Worth: Recipes from the Dunsandel Store landed on our desks - a prettily designed and photographed recipe book made in collaboration with Annabel Graham, featuring seasonal recipes from the iconic Canterbury cafe.
His latest book is just as pretty - a cloth bound catalogue of approachable recipes with evocative photography by Daniela Aebli. We thought we'd get to know the actor turned cookbook writer a little better...
You're relatively young for the author of two cookbooks - how did you discover your passion so early on?
I was born in Hamilton to farming parents and moved down to Canterbury at the age of nine. After eight years at boarding school I intended on having a gap year in Europe, but instead spent it in various kitchens - mostly at the Dunsandel Store - which is where my interest in cooking properly ignited. I turned my experiences there into a cookbook with Annabel Graham in 2010 (A Year's Worth: Recipes from Dunsandel Store).
After completing a degree in Theatre Studies and English Literature, I went on to do a masters in Film Acting at London's Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2012. Ever since, I've been back in Auckland, balancing dual careers in food writing and acting.
What’s your earliest cooking memory?
Collecting blackcurrants with my younger brothers and grandmother. There is some fairly embarrassing handycam footage of us fighting over who found the biggest. I also remember my first experience with coriander at a very young age….hated it. Luckily I love the stuff now.
What's your most loved piece of kitchen equipment?
A little La Fourmi paring knife, at the moment. A few weeks ago it was an amazing zester with a wooden handle I found in Tai Ping supermarket.
What’s in your fridge right now?
Chicken livers, orange juice (I don’t drink it, it’s for bircher); lots of Parmesan, silverbeet, Greek yoghurt, Borewors sausages, Hallertau lager, probably a carrot or two; green curry paste, wasabi, ginger, capers, horseradish, salt cod, Best Food's mayo, obviously; and butter.
If you had to only eat the cuisine of one country, which would you choose?
Vietnam, because you get France as well! The lightness, the freshness of ingredients, the flavours...I’m always in the mood for good Vietnamese.
Do you have any food 'pet peeves'?
I hate, absolutely HATE it when you’re having dinner with a few people and there's that one delicious morsel left. Everyone is eyeing it but they're all too polite to take it and it always ends up uneaten. Also have a distrust of raw celery. Can’t handle the stuff.
What's the best dish you've eaten in the past year?
Hands down, Xiaolongbao (a type of steamed bun) in Shanghai about two months ago. Little soupy packets of joy that are crispy on the bottom, bursting (literally) with well-seasoned pork, prawns, garlic chive and master stock, all for the equivalent of two NZ dollars.
Actually Sean Connolly's Auckland restaurant The Grill does a pretty good steak with Ortiz Anchovy, and their Steak Tartare makes me fairly giddy with happiness. So on second thought...oh and how could I forget the Rye Gnocchi with Hen’s Egg and White Truffle from Auckland's Orphan’s Kitchen? It’s all too hard. I give up.
Where are your top three places to eat and drink in New Zealand?
Orphan’s Kitchen in Auckland. So envious of their talent.
Ombra in Wellington. Tied with Depot in Auckland. (Sorry, couldn’t decide.)
Barilla Dumpling on Dominion Rd.
Which recipe are you proudest of?
My Crumbed Sweetbreads with Parsley and Fennel recipe. I hope it gets people eating sweetbreads, as they're glorious when done properly. My Pasteis De Nata (Portugese Custard Tarts) come in a close second - there's nothing more satisfying.
What are your favourite food blogs to follow?
I don’t really follow food blogs, but there are two I’m fairly into: Hungry and Frozen, which is so wonderfully honest and real, and I'm a big fan of Sarah Tuck's From The Kitchen.