Samara Murphy – from writing to the kitchen
May 15, 2009
Samara Murphy – from writing to the kitchen

by J. Soso-Vincent 15.MAY.09

At the age of eight, most children are more consumed with playing video games, playing with dolls or watching television than reading a book. At age eight, Samara Murphy not only loved reading books – she wrote one too!{{more}}

In the December 1, 1995, issue of SEARCHLIGHT, Samara was featured for having her book, ‘Lennie the Lizard’, published by Chemeric – an American children’s publishing company. On an earlier visit to her aunt, who then resided in Washington D.C, it was decided that writing a children’s book would be a fantastic project for Samara to undertake, as she was out of school at that time.

The tale of ‘Lennie the Lizard’ had been passed down to Samara from her grandfather, who had a passion for regaling his children and grandchildren with stories. “My grandfather used to have some stories that he told them (his children), and I liked writing a lot,” she recalled. Samara admitted that despite being fun at first, she had quickly gotten weary of working on the book. Definitely not a surprise from someone so young! However, her family encouraged her to persevere, and, along with an assistant from the publishing company, she finished the book – complete with her very own illustrations.

Now 22 years old, Samara doesn’t believe the publishing of her book warranted all the attention it received at the time. “The whole newspaper thing was a bit of an accident!” she chuckled. Samara explained that she had been home-schooled by Norma Keizer, who was then the Editor at Searchlight Newspaper. When the book was published, a copy was given to Keizer, and, according to Samara, “It kind of took off from there!”

Since then, people have expected Samara to pursue a career in writing. But that is a highly unlikely outcome, as the only written work she has done since are a few articles for her school’s newsletter. Instead, Samara’s focus has shifted somewhat – she’s still employing the use of her hands, but this time for cooking!

At the end of February 2009, she graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) after a stint of three years. “The other CIA,” she joked. There she gained an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts Management. To qualify for entry into the CIA, applicants must have at least 6 months restaurant experience. So prior to leaving the island in 2006, Samara spent a year working in the kitchen at Young Island Resort. “It was a good foundation…” she gushed. Many other students had done their work experience at fast food restaurants and consequently struggled to adjust to the type of cooking being taught on the course. Thanks to her fine dining experience at Young Island Resort, this wasn’t an issue for her.

Despite being passionate about becoming a chef now, Samara had briefly entertained the idea of a career in veterinary medicine. In fact, she had signed up for the correspondence classes at college but soon lost interest. She remembered that one day, one of her teachers had noticed her disinterest and asked her what she’d rather be doing. “I was like hmmm… I’d rather be cooking!” And things fell into place from there.

Over the years, Samara, the daughter of Josette Norris and Sid Murphy, has secured quite a few achievements within her field, as well as outside of it. When she was 9 or 10, Samara won a gold medal at the OECS Games held in Grenada, in the swimming category. “Everyone remembers the book but they don’t remember that… I’m pretty proud of that!” she beamed.

More recently, she was nominated by her school (CIA) for the National Restaurant Association Student Honor Award, and traveled to Chicago to receive it when she was accepted in May 2008. Her student government also awarded her with a Distinguished Service award, and last summer she traveled to Italy for a Food and Wine Seminar. For 3 weeks, along with 24 other students, she traveled extensively through the country, expanding her knowledge on the Italian culinary experience. “It was fun!” she exclaimed.

Additionally, Samara was the Resident Assistant on campus, Vice-President of the International Club and Resident Student Liaison Officer to the student government.

But the biggest feather under Samara’s cap has to be her ‘externship’ (internship done outside of the CIA) at the Aquavit Restaurant in New York City. The restaurant, which received a 3-star rating from the New York Times, specializes in Swedish fine dining and is led by Head Chef Marcus Samuelson, who is a bit of a celebrity. Samuelson’s claim to fame came from his participation in the reality television series ‘Iron Chef’.

Sometimes working 12 – 14 hour days, Samara’s ‘externship’ lasted 3 1/2 months in 2006/2007 through the Christmas and New Year’s season. “It was awesome!” she enthused. The work itself was arduous and intense, but the experience was excellent. Whilst there, she helped prepare meals for the Swedish Royal Family and United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Her time at Aquavit showed her that ‘line cooking’ is just not her cup of tea. “I really like to cook but I don’t like the high pressure demand situation of a line cook.” Upon completion of her ‘externship’, Samara was promptly offered full-time employment there – but she declined. The prestige of having worked at Aquavit, however, will undoubtedly benefit her future career. “When you say in the industry that you’ve worked at Aquavit, people know what you’re talking about…”

Currently, Samara finds herself with an abundance of free time – something alien to her, as the rigorous schedule of the CIA didn’t allow her much time to herself. So, she is catching up on her traveling and visiting old friends. With a keen interest in Asian cuisine, Samara is particularly interested in finding employment in either Florida or the northern Caribbean. However, she is not averse to working anywhere in the world. “Right now I’d settle for a job anywhere.”

Eventually she’d like to return to SVG to set up her own business, but for now she wants to do some serious traveling and experience cooking in the various cuisines. And, of course, expand her repertoire.

A past student of the St. Mary’s Roman Catholic School and the Girls’ High School, Samara acknowledges that in SVG (in certain fields) it can be difficult to gain the experience needed to propel oneself. “I’m still at that stage where I’m searching for exactly what I want to do… the kind of person I want to be. Right now I just want to find out as much as possible and learn as much as possible…”

This reporter certainly wishes her all the best, and is reserving another interview when her star peaks!