Executive Pastry Chef David Sampson’s taste for the sweeter things in life began as a child. Growing up in the small town of Bliss, New York, he recalls many a night when his parents played cards with his aunt and uncle, munching on store-bought desserts as they competed. With his parents occupied, he needed to find a way to keep himself entertained too—and he started with dessert.
He began making sweets that his family could eat while playing cards, easy recipes like chocolate cake from the Duncan Hines mix and chocolate oatmeal cookies that required no baking. As David continued to bake, he graduated to more advanced recipes such as buttermilk panna cotta and chocolate marquise—and he also found out that he was quite good at it.
What started out as a way to bide his time turned into his hobby, which he eventually turned into a career. He attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and graduated in 2000. After graduation, he worked in many well-known resorts including Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania and Sea Island Resort in Georgia.
In June 2016, David moved his wife, Bianca, and kids (Isabella, 10, and Wesley, six months) to Palmetto Bluff to lead the pastry and dessert execution on property. He leads a 10-person team that prepares every tasty treat served at restaurants and events at Palmetto Bluff.
Creativity is key in his position, and David is continuously presented with new challenges to pair desserts with specific menus. He enjoys using his favorite traditional recipes and adding his own personal flair to them, like his take on a classic strawberry shortcake that he debuted at the first Palmetto Bluff Farm to Fork dinner in March 2018. And, lucky for all of us, he’s willing to share—check out the original sticky note on the next page for his not-so-secret recipe.
Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A: Being on a beach in Rio de Janeiro with my wife and kids playing in the sand.
Q: What goes through your mind as you drive to work each morning?
A: I love the drive in. The trees are amazing. And I also go through my list of things to do for the day while singing along with the radio. Oh! And I also always look to see if I can spot an alligator after coming through the main gate.
Q: And on the way home?
A: Well, my hours are crazy, so it’s usually, “Please don’t let me hit a deer.”
Q: What is your greatest extravagance?
A: Tech stuff, new gadgets, chef knives, and artisan chocolate.
Q: Movie that you would recommend to friends?
A: Any of the Avenger and James Bond movies.
Q: If there was a movie about your life, what would it be called and which actor would play you?
A: The actor would definitely be Anthony Edwards. And the movie would probably be called Yankee in the South.
Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
A: My bench test at Sea Island. It was a very difficult exam.
Q: What is your most marked characteristic?
A: I love to scare people at every opportunity!
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: Humble Pie by Gordon Ramsey.
Q: If you could have one “super power,” what would it be? How would you use it at work?
A: I would want to see the future, and I’d fix problems before they arose.
Q: When you’re not here, what are you doing?
A: Watching TV, playing with my son, or baking with my daughter. I also enjoy fishing, gardening, and bike riding.
Q: What word/phrase do you use the most?
A: When talking to my team: “Do you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns?”
Q: What makes you laugh?
A: Relatable parent/child funny stories.
Q: Top five songs/bands on your playlist?
A: Golden oldies all the way—or classic rock.
Q: Favorite spot on the Bluff?
A: The area surrounding Cole’s and Canteen in Moreland Village.
Q: Best Palmetto Bluff moment?
A: The Donut Truck at Music to Your Mouth in 2017. Everyone was happy and mingling together. There was so much interaction between the owners and chefs—you couldn’t tell who was working the event and who was there simply to enjoy it.
Written by Amanda Baran Cutrer
Photography by Krisztian Lonyai