SAM SNEAD’S GRILL CHEF MAKES MUSIC WHEN NOT IN THE KITCHEN
It’s no secret that many people who work in a professional kitchen like to work hard and play hard.
For Patrick Lewis, the executive chef at the Sam Snead’s Oak Grill & Tavern at the Kingswood Lodge, he enjoys playing a round of golf or tickling the ivories with his new band, Local Men, when he’s not up to his elbows in baby back ribs or brisket.
Both hobbies, he said, are great ways to blow off a little steam after another fast-paced day at Sam Snead’s, one of the city’s finest casual dining establishments, which features a mixture of Maritime staples and Southern barbecue dishes.
Lewis, a Saint John native who moved to Fredericton in 1999 to attend St. Thomas University, has two true passions: cooking and playing music.
“They both started out as hobbies. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t going to be an academic, or a professional musician. So I began to focus on cooking,” he said.
He dropped out of university and enrolled at the New Brunswick Community College in Moncton, completing an apprenticeship program that allowed him to study under a couple of notable chefs, including Chef Ray Henry, one of the founders of reLISH Gourmet Burgers and a gold-medal winning member of Culinary Team Canada.
Over the years, he’s held positions at BrewBakers, Mexicali Rosa’s, Caribbean Flavas and many other fine eateries across the province.
Lewis started working at Fredericton’s Sam Snead’s franchise in 2011. After being hired, he travelled to Florida for a special orientation session, where he learned about the chain restaurant’s storied history.
“It was nice. I didn’t have to worry about making a big menu. About half the menu is my creation and half are recipes from Sam Snead’s,” he said, explaining that when Chef Benoit Tremblay retired at the beginning of 2015, he also inherited the task of catering all of the facility’s banquets.
“I look after the food for the kiosks, the carts, pretty much anything food-related for Kingswood, except for the Pizza Hut in the bowling alley.”
If you haven’t made the trip up the hill for a dinner at Sam Snead’s, you might consider it for your next outing.
From the Southern-style buttermilk fried chicken with sweet bourbon gravy to the smoked baby back ribs, there are several options on the menu that are worth writing home about.
All are available in the restaurant’s comfortable, casual atmosphere, which seems equally suited to patrons coming from a formal function and others who’ve just strolled in off the greens.
“We’re trying to meld a lot of comfort foods,”he said. “We’re trying to cater to the people who eat here. I had the luxury of working at BrewBakers for five years and you could do a lot of stuff and people would respond to it. It’s a little different here. You have to cater to your clientele. But this is what I grew up eating. This is the stuff I enjoy making.”
That casual atmosphere perfectly echoes Lewis’s personality. Funny, and open, and a bit of an agitator, he likes talking with people, frequently leaving the kitchen to chat with guests during a service.
“I’m used to working in open kitchens. So I’ve just started coming out, hanging out by the bar. You get to know all the guys. There’s hundreds of members, but you get to know the regulars,” he said.
“I took up golfing when I started here. I didn’t golf before that. Sometimes, if you get done early, and you see somebody sitting at the bar, you’ll ask them if you want to go out and play a round. It’s fun to have the golf course right here at work.”
And, after a long hiatus, he’s been making music once again.
“I’ve just started working with Chris “Skinner” MacLean, who has a recording studio down from my house. Me and my old bandmate, Tayce MacAvity, who plays bass, have now formed a little three-piece piano band,” he said, explaining that he plays piano and guitar and is a former member of groups like Them The Ragtag and Fat Jebus.
“I had gotten away from music for a long time as my primary focus was on my apprenticeship. But now that I’m getting back to it, it’s a lot of fun again. I think we’ve settled on a name for the new band: Local Men. It’s all original compositions.”
He said he’s hoping for a busy summer at Sam Snead’s, one that will see more people leave the downtown core for a short drive up the Hanwell Road.
“I think people now realize that, from downtown, it’s only a seven- or eight-minute drive,” he said.
“It’s not like you can walk around and decide what restaurant you want to eat at. If you’re coming here, you have to decide that and make the effort to come here. But with the bowling alley, the golf course, and everything else, you can spend the whole day here.”
Lewis said it’s important that chefs have fun with the job, which can be stressful if you don’t have the right components in place.
“I try to have fun at work and not take it too, too seriously. I did for a long time and the blood-pressure got too high. Now, I remember that there’s more to life than work,” he said.
“I’ve seen really talented chefs just waste themselves because they’re a ball of anxiety and stress and anger.”
What causes this level of stress? There’s a drive for consistency, a desire to be the best, and a never-relenting pace.
“Still, I love the challenge of it. I’m never bored. Working in an office, 9-5, would bore me. I’m the executive chef now, but I’m not a computer and clipboard guy. I spend most of my time out here, being hands-on, prepping, working the line, doing the banquets.”
PHOTO & ARTICLE: ADAM BOWIE, THE DAILY GLEANER