Passionate and loves working with people could be a line in any job description in the hospitality industry. Sam, bar manager at Heron Farm, lives and breathes this, helping to shape and set the tone in the vineyard kitchen based on the outskirts of Honiton.
Looking after the bar in the main cafe area and the outside cocktail bar, her day starts by briefing her team of five.
‘I want everything to be perfect and that starts with everyone knowing what they need to do,’ she says. She works hard to ensure this is the case and it’s clear her energy and passion motivate her colleagues to keep up the momentum throughout the busy day.
Stock is replenished for the day, sorting out drinks and the display of cakes, as well as liaising with local producers. At Heron Farm they aim to stay within the southwest region, sourcing produce from Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, and Somerset. Sam speaks regularly with producers, often on a weekly basis, saying that a great relationship pays dividends if they need more stock at late notice.
The fruit and vegetables grown on the farm are used in the kitchen, keeping food miles down to a minimum. Another part of Sam’s job involves gathering berries throughout the season – strawberries, mulberries, and blackberries to name a few – and a number of herbs to incorporate into drinks and desserts.
‘I like playing around and trying new combinations with our home-grown produce. We use edible flowers in salads and desserts but I wanted to experiment with other ingredients,’ she says. The lavender lattes went down well, she adds, and she’s waiting for the walnuts to be ready to try some new dishes.
Sam works with the chefs to create infusions in drinks such as Mojitos, sparkling wines, gin, or with ice-cream. She encourages her team to get involved too, and they’ve got a What’s App group where suggestions are made and discussed.
The philosophy at Heron Farm is to preserve what the garden produces during the summer months to take them through the winter. Making things last as long as possible is essential to maintain a local focus.
The outside cocktail bar opens at 10am offering a range of alcoholic and soft drinks – the mock martini being one of the most popular. Sam offered ideas for the internal and external elements of the bar, giving suggestions to the designer to create the overall look of the bar. A recent training day focused on seeing who could make the fastest cocktail. A quick turnaround – the aim to make them in two minutes – is crucial during hectic times to keep customers happy.
In any downtime, the work continues. This includes cleaning, keeping stock filled up, offering wine and gin tasting to customers, telling people about the origins of where the produce comes from or chatting with some of the many regulars that frequent the cafe.
Moving down from London in 2003, Sam’s been at Heron Farm since the beginning and brings the sense of community she knew growing up to East Devon. Boss Jack describes her as being part of the bones of the place and being extremely passionate about her work.
At the end of the day, the team takes time to grab a drink and discuss how the day went. During a busy summer season, this allows for any issues to be raised and tackled, keeping everyone motivated in what they need to do, as well as bringing everyone together.
‘I love working here and I’m so proud of my team. It feels just like a family,’ she says.