Essence of England | Chapter 7 ~ Sam Rosen-Nash
In our Essence of England series, we speak to values-aligned creatives, entrepreneurs and familiar faces from across the South West about their lives, work and what ‘Englishness’ means to them.
Sam Rosen-Nash has spent her career sourcing and producing beautiful, seasonal food. She spent 15 years as a buyer at Fortnum & Mason, before setting up her food consultancy business, The Purple Scallion.
When, in 2020, Covid struck and restaurants were forced to close, Sam realised that not only was it difficult to access high-quality food but producers were stuck without a route to market. Her solution? Provenance: a business designed to bring fresh, local and delicious food to local homes, which she set up alongside close friends Anna and James Hayward. As well as selling seasonal produce and meals from a shop on Tisbury high street, Provenance also offers a catering service and a popular dinner series, Under The Trees.
- Sam Rosen-Nash
We chatted with Sam about the ways in which the seasons inspire her cooking, her favourite suppliers from across the South West, and why she’s so passionate about supporting local businesses.
What role did food play in your upbringing?
Food was very much central in my childhood. We would always eat together around the table as a family. I had a Turkish-Cypriot grandmother who taught me to cook using Middle Eastern and North African spices, and a Filipino godmother, who inspired me to embrace South Asian cookery. Both cultures are very much about big bold flavours; you start with beautiful raw ingredients and then use spices to lift the dish.
“Cooking with what’s on my doorstep fills my soul.”
How would you describe your ethos when it comes to food?
My inspiration comes from the seasons. Even looking at the colour of the trees can make me want to go out and forage – cooking with what’s on my doorstep fills my soul.
I always start by getting produce from farmers and growers locally but if I need a more niche ingredient, such as star anise, I’ll use a local supplier to source it for me. That way, I’m still contributing to a cyclical economy.
To me, sustainability goes beyond recyclable packaging (although that’s important too) – it’s about supporting your community. I would really encourage people to support their local businesses, whether they are in food, hospitality, homewares – anything. We really saw that community generosity during Covid and those business owners still need your support.
- All photography by Marte Marie Forsberg
What did you learn during your time as a buyer at Fortnum & Mason?
I was incredibly lucky at Fortnum’s because I could work directly with suppliers to source amazing ingredients and create products that were of the very best quality. Say we wanted to make strawberry and Champagne jam: we’d use English strawberries and bottles of Champagne as opposed to flavourings. Now, seasonality is at the core of everything I do. It’s about using the best ingredients I can find to build layers of flavour.
By picking and cooking produce on the same day, you’re able to encapsulate those rich, nature-given flavours directly and that shines through in the products.
How did you approach setting up Provenance?
If you’re moving into a small community high street, I believe that you should look to fill gaps where others aren’t. There was already a great deli in Tisbury that stocks a plethora of European goods. So, along with the products made by us in-house, everything we sell is made in the South West, making our offering complementary rather than competitive.
Provenance is all about taking the time to slow down and connect. We put a coffee machine in the shop to disrupt the pace and encourage people to pause for a conversation. It allowed us to build friendships with our customers during the Covid years and now those same people are booking us to cater a wedding or are bringing us gorgeous produce from their garden.
The slow approach is reflected in our food; we take the time to create low-and-slow dishes and then all you have to do is warm it up and you have a beautiful, restaurant-quality meal in your own home that’s had oodles of love poured into it.
How does Provenance catering fit into your vision?
The catering side of the business is growing rapidly. My approach is inspired by the family dinners of my childhood, using sharing platters that can be passed down the table to encourage conversation and build community. Sometimes I find being served a plated dinner can be quite insular – everyone has their heads down – whereas putting platters down the centre of the table immediately encourages curiosity and brings energy and excitement.
Who are some of your favourite local suppliers?
Gosh, there are so many! When it comes to vegetables there is Charles Dowding’s salad leaves, Liz Collins at Kensons, and Lily MacClelland at Tokes Farm with her no-dig garden and forest school, where the children plant the seedlings. Then there’s Landrace Bakery with their amazing bread and buns – a real highlight of our week when they’re delivered every Thursday – and we get our honey from Pythouse down the road.
When I can’t get meat from one of the local farms, I go to John at W.S. Clarke’s Butcher in Sixpenny Handley. It is one of the few remaining small butcheries with an abattoir at the back, so it has a true nose-to-tail approach.
I’m always learning from my suppliers and it sets us apart to be able to share their stories with our customers.
Tell us about the Under the Trees dinner series. What inspired it?
Under the Trees is about taking the best of what we do in the shop and bringing it alive, using food to tell a story. At the majority of our dinners, the food is cooked in front of you over a pit fire and we eat at a long table in a clearing in a wood. Our dinner this December will take place in the most beautiful tythe barn and I’ll be bringing the outside in, celebrating man and nature.
Each of the dinners has their own theme in line with nature. In May, it was about the ethereal beauty that comes at the height of spring, with wild garlic as a core ingredient. In October, we celebrated the bounty the summer had given us. And this December, it will be about bringing people together to celebrate and let go.
Next year, our plan is to have four seasonal dinners, as well as to offer workshops to allow people to learn our approach and replicate it at home.
What should be on the agenda for a weekend in South Wiltshire?
We have the most fabulous landscape surrounding us, from breathtaking views to majestic forests.
We also have Messums with wonderful exhibitions to feed your senses. And then, of course, you can always grab a basket and explore Tisbury high street!
What does Essence of England mean to you?
Simple, seasonal and beautiful, from our landscape to our wonderful produce. Essence of England to me encapsulates those beautiful moments that play on the senses, like the smell of the earth when it rains on a warm summer’s day or the scent of a vine tomato in your kitchen garden.
~ all photography by Marte Marie Forsberg