This February were turning our Chef Spotlight towards the North Devon coast to meet Andreia Santos, the Portuguese pastry chef at the exclusive Saunton Sands Hotel.
Let’s meet Andreia…
Hailing from the charming town of Barreiro, located near the vibrant city of Lisbon, and originally on a path studying biology and chemistry at the age of 18, Andreia made a crucial decision that redirected her trajectory towards the world of patisserie. Enrolling in an intensive two-year pastry management and production course, she honed her skills and embarked on a remarkable journey.
An internship at Penha-Longa Sintra Ritz Carlton provided exposure to the nuances of 5-star hospitality, emphasizing the importance of personalized service. This experience fueled a desire to explore, leading to roles in prestigious locations such as Pestana Porto Santo in Madeira, a high-end bakery in the Azores, and an intriguing term in Angola, Africa.
The allure of London drew her to Fortnum & Mason, where an appreciation for the British culinary tradition took root. After contributing to the opening of 45 Jermyn Street, Andreia returned to Lisbon briefly before venturing to the beautiful coastal Saunton Sands Hotel, where she’s devoted more than six years to crafting desserts.
Last year marked a significant milestone with the launch of her small business in Barnstaple, fittingly named The One With Cake, balancing the joys of entrepreneurship with her role at the hotel as Head of Pastry—a harmonious blend of professional success and personal fulfilment.
What prompted you to become a chef?
The inspiration to become a chef traces back to the enchanting summers of my childhood spent in Moura, a quaint town in the south of Portugal, alongside my great-grandmother.
In those early hours, she would quietly slip out to procure fresh bread, biscuits, and cakes for our breakfast. Despite her attempts not to disturb my sleep, I always managed to wake up and accompany her.
One of my cherished memories is witnessing the bakers in action, effortlessly displaying their craft with skill and ease. As cooking and baking are ingrained in our culture, I found myself drawn to spend as much time as possible in the kitchen with her.
This passion never faded, leading me to a teenage realization that I would find far greater happiness working in a kitchen than in a laboratory. The warmth of those childhood moments continues to fuel my culinary journey.
What has been your greatest achievement or proudest moment in your career?
I consider my greatest achievement to be a culmination of diverse experiences in my career. From organising the opening of 45 Jermyn Street, to earning two AA Rosettes at Saunton Sands, each accomplishment holds its unique significance.
However, the most fulfilling achievement for me is witnessing the growth of chefs who, despite lacking prior experience in patisserie work and familiarity with the basics, excel in every task. It brings me immense joy to carefully teach and demonstrate techniques and procedures, watching them succeed and thrive in their newfound skills daily.
What makes Devon such a great place to work as a chef?
For me, it’s the commitment to sustainability in the region that makes Devon appealing. It’s the perfect blend of a thriving food culture, where it’s easy to access sustainable and exceptional ingredients.
Where would you go to dine out on a night off?
My absolute favourite place to go is The Farmers Arms in Woolsery. Besides its charming ambience, the food is exceptional.
What is your favourite Devon ingredient or product to use in your dishes? And why?
I find inspiration in the remarkable variety of apples that Devon has to offer, making them one of my absolute favourite ingredients.
Another ingredient is the honey from Quince Honey Farm. The distinct sweetness and complexity of their different honeys bring a delightful depth to my desserts. Both the apples and honey serve not only as exceptional components in my recipes but also as a nostalgic link between my roots and my home in North Devon.
For more information about the Saunton Sands Hotel CLICK HERE to visit their website.