Lee Smith to leave Samphire and launch his own restaurant

The  Staff Canteen

Lee Smith, head chef at Michelin-starred Samphire in Jersey is set to leave the restaurant in the hope of opening his own place in England. 

Tommy Radiguet, currently Lee's sous-chef, will take over when he departs in September. 

In an interview with The Staff Canteen, the Great British Menu finalist said it "felt like the right time" to move on and face the new challenge of opening his own pub or restaurant, as despite having spent 14 years on the island, the plan had always been to return closer to his Nottingham home. 

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Not tied down to a certain region, the chef said he won't be looking for investors initially, calling this his 'plan B.'

"Ideally I'd like to start really small and grow it, like The Hand and Flowers, and let the business grow as it develops," he said

"I don't really want to go and blow a big budget to start with and spend the rest of my life paying it back, I want to start off small and grow it into something I can manage myself; especially in the climate that we're in, I don't want to open up owing a couple of million to somebody." 

The chef said he'll go back to Nottingham "for a few weeks," planning guest appearances at The Devonshire Arms and The Stargazy Inn with the recently-appointed chef Andrew Sheridan. 

Samphire's newly-acquired Michelin star last year didn't play on the chef's mind when he made the decision to leave and he is confident that Tommy and the team will make sure it stays in the guide.

"The star is not just about me anyway, they were here when we got the star in the first place, it's just time for Tommy to find his own feet - which I'm sure he will - and progress his own style," he said.

"He knows the suppliers, he knows the day-to-day running of the place, that's not an issue. When I'm away he looks after the place so it's more concentrating on putting menus together and making sure ingredients don't repeat themselves. As he progresses he'll find his own style and methods anyway." 

Good things to come

Meanwhile, Tommy said he "can't wait" to take over the kitchen at Samphire.

"It's going to be a good challenge I think. It's going to be tough but it's going to be good, I'm excited for it. We've got a good team behind us and I'm looking forward to the future." 

The sous-chef said he already played a part in menu design as sous-chef at the restaurant and has spent the past six months learning other aspects of how to run a kitchen, such as staffing and HR.

"The next couple of months will be securing all those little bits to make life a lot easier when he's gone," he said.  

"I'll put my own style into the food and I'll be running the place, the business, not just the kitchen but the restaurant with the customers, the bars, working together with Pete, the restaurant manager, putting our own little stamp on it."

The chef is hoping that in time, they will help to change the Jersey mindset - to get people more excited about eating out at restaurants that are a bit different, like Samphire - even though, he said, the Michelin star has been "a massive help." 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th June 2019

Lee Smith to leave Samphire and launch his own restaurant