The Blather: Samantha Buyskes

It’s been a good while since the last installment of The Blather, profiling my blogger buddy Pav, who’s now running social media efforts for New Hampshire’s Taste Magazine and still killing it with his Pavlov’s Blog. I guess I’ve just been too busy gallivanting all over the state and the globe recently to miss a week of restaurant reviewing. So this is one I’ve been sitting on awhile, and am excited to share. You’ve heard me bragging before about my love of Simply Red Bistro, which is no longer gracing Sheldrake Point Winery with its fried chicken presence:

…but is still going strong at Ithaca’s La Tourelle resort. Well, the mastermind behind this delicious conceit agreed to be featured on The Blather some time ago, and I’m thrilled to finally be bringing you her tale.

Samantha Buyskes is a South African-born wunderkind who aspires to mix the culinary bounty of the Finger Lakes region with her personal wanderlust, relying heavily on exotic spices and ingredients indigenous to foreign lands in her food. She has operated Simpy Red Bistros in Trumansburg, Ovid, and Ithaca, runs the concessions at Ithaca’s Hangar Theater, and most recently, the Simply Red Events and Culinary Center. This newest endeavor features cooking classes hosted right in Samantha’s home (!!) as well as events at Highland Lodge in Trumansburg. As if this bevy of activity weren’t enough, Samantha was a contestant on Food Network’s excellent Chopped, in 2011.

Chef Samantha answered my five standard Blather question with no muss and no fuss, which endeared me to her even more than I had been previously. Let’s hear what she has to say:

BHS: How did you become interested in a career in food?
SB: I have been cooking since I was four years old...always loved food, setting the table. My mom was an independent business women in the fashion, shoe, and jewelry business; My brother and I had to make our school lunches, afternoon tea etc...also watching her work, I became interested in ways I could make money and it happens to be around food.

I used to make chocolates for sale at school, pick the huge avocadoes from the tree in my mom's backyard in South Africa, and sell them at the corner store...you get the idea.  

BHS: What is your favorite ingredient?
SB: Mmm..three bacon and anything pig, cheese and mayo

BHS: What was a foundational culinary memory from your childhood?
SB: My mom and grandmothers all cooked only seasonally and from scratch using the best ingredients

BHS: What is your favorite restaurant? (She was coy here…)
SB: Ever-or in the region???? Big Question...  

BHS: Death row meal…go!
SB: Anything pig.......

As you can tell, Big Hungries, Chef Samantha is a girl after our hearts. Not only is she not scared to plop a huge knob of butter on top of deep fried chicken, she likes pork with everything AND is kind of a TV star. How bad do you want to go with me to a cooking class at her house?? I know. If you’d like to be like Samantha, you’re in luck, because she shared her delectable, gooey, crunchy, homey fried chicken recipe with me to pass along to you. Consider it an early holiday gift.
Mama Red's Classic Southern Fried Chicken
Created by Chef Samantha Buyskes of Simply Red Events and Culinary Center
• (3-4) pound broiler chicken, cut up into 8 pieces, breasts split
• 4 cups buttermilk
• 1 tbsp salt
• 1 tbsp black pepper
• ¼ cup Tabasco
• ¼ cup smoked chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
Flour Mix
• 4 cups flour
• 1 tsbp each salt and pepper
Big deep pot at 2 gallon size
8 cups of canola oil
Heated to 350 degrees and maintained at the temp
(Keep fire extinguisher close by)
  1. Whisk buttermilk, salt, pepper, Tabasco and chipotles together
  2. Pour over the chicken pieces and marinate overnight or at least six hours
  3. Drain chicken pieces, dust with flour and place slowly into the oil using tongs one piece at a time
  4. Fry for 15 -20 minutes until pieces start to float and have reached a beautiful golden brown
  5. Pull out place on paper towel and serve
I still haven’t sussed out her wicked mac and cheese recipe, nor the dynamite lavender lemonade I once sipped at Sheldrake’s Simply Red. Maybe this post will curry additional favor and Chef Samantha will smile upon me. If she does, I promise to share. That lemonade haunts me.

Chef Samantha also asks you to come meet her at her Southern Night events on Monday nights at The Red Newt Wine Cellars in Hector, NY. And if you want to go, invite me to come! I might even pick up the tab! From Red Newt’s Website, it appears she’s making shrimp and grits for these dinners. Droooooool. For more info on The Wonderful World of Sam, check out her website at www.simplyredculinary.com. Can you imagine a wedding catered by Sam? I die.

In other news, I checked out the new Basha’s Lebanese Grill on the Vestal Parkway, so you don’t have to. I’m serious, you don’t have to. It was terrible! I ordered the chicken shawarma sandwich with tahini sauce and French fries, and after a few bites, I threw away the majority of it – all $10 worth. The chicken came out of a warming pan rather than being sliced off a meat cone, and furthermore, I couldn’t even see those huge cones of meat in the back kitchen anywhere – a bad sign. The pita was so thin and dry, my sandwich erupted and split before I could even bite into it, and the fries were so very stale and cold (fried hours ago from a frozen product, for sure), I ate about two before giving up. Don’t bother giving this place any of your money or wasting any calories here. The food was terrible and quite counter to all of my other experiences with Lebanese, Turkish or Mediterranean food. My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

Simply Red Bistro at La Tourelle Resort on Urbanspoon


  1. She sounds awesome, I'd totally love to take a cooking class with her! I swear I saw her on Chopped. She looks familiar.

  2. Come up, and we'll do it! She was on the season six opener, but got cut in the second course.

  3. Sam is a Finger Lakes treasure!

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