SA Life

Get CityMag in your inbox. Subscribe
November 30, 2022

Sam Christopher wants the food to do the talking

2KW's new executive chef brings an impressive culinary career into the rooftop venue, creating dishes that draw equally on his humble appreciation of flavour and history working with native ingredients.

  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Ben Searcy

Cooking at one of the loftiest restaurants in the Adelaide CBD, for many chefs, might give cause for an inflated ego. Sam Christopher, the new executive chef at 2KW, has no such problem.


Level 8, 2 King William Street, Adelaide 5000
Mon—Sun: Midday ’til late


“I’m not naturally- I’m not the face of a business,” he says, in a seeming attempt to undercut our conversation before it’s begun. “I’m not super happy to be, like- [I’m] behind the scenes, doing the work.”

This severe humility papers over an impressive career to date.

In his early 20s, Sam moved from his native New Zealand to Melbourne to throw himself into cheffing. He purchased the Good Food Guide and dropped his CV into every one-hatted restaurant until he got a call-back. “Moving to Melbourne was… kind of like a drive, a purpose. Otherwise I felt like I was bobbing around like a teabag,” he says.

His first stop was Cicciolina in St Kilda, working under its founding head chef, Virginia Redmond. After five years, Sam moved to Golden Fields, an Andrew McConnell restaurant, where he did another five years, before moving to its newly opened sibling, Supernormal, for a year. Working in these venues was an instructive period for Sam.

“I always admired the restaurants… and I kind of wanted to be part of that group. I always looked up to it as the next level… The level of service, the dishes, the food,” he says. “I thought I knew how to do something, and then Andrew would be like, ‘Nup, this is how you do it’.”

By 2014, Sam had spent about a decade in Melbourne, and he and his partner, fashion designer Andrija Sala-Christopher, were keen on a change of scenery. “You live in Melbourne for a long time, you’ve spent a lot of time in big cities, it’s hectic. You kind of feel like you’re on a treadmill a lot of the time,” he says.

Thinking about what to do next, an article detailing Jock Zonfrillo’s foray into indigenous ingredients at Orana gave the chef a renewed sense of direction. “I was amazed,” he says. “I felt embarrassed to know that I’d lived in Australia that long and never used or heard of those ingredients before… I was pretty inspired.”

Andrija’s family were living in Glenelg at this time, and the couple would travel to Adelaide for Christmas every year. This gave Sam some familiarity with the city’s dining scene – though not in great depth, as “most things were closed,” he says. On one of the trips, he organised a trial at Orana and was on staff and living in Adelaide by festival time.

“We had Fringe Festival and then it was WOMAD. It was absolutely mental. It was insane,” he says. “Within the first week, they took me up the Hills foraging, and then autumn came along and we were doing mushroom foraging. It was massive. It was jumping in the deep end.”

In 2017, Sam became Orana’s head chef, and he held that position up until the pandemic shut the restaurant down. With the doors closed, Sam and his team ran a “native ingredient food lab”. They’d set up a humidity- and heat-controlled tent inside the restaurant to sprout bunya nuts.

“We’d sprout them and then roast them and crush them up, and then put them into vac-pack bags and put them in the freezer, and then they would take them to the distillery and make alcohol out of them. It was so boring,” Sam laughs. “I was like, ‘I can do something more than this’.”

Sam took a job at Chianti, where he spent two years, before taking the executive chef role at 2KW this year.


This move was partly inspired by the group surrounding 2KW. Two of Sam’s former Orana colleagues, Greta Wohlstadt and Sam O’Reilly, had moved to Norwood restaurant Arkhé, which 2KW owner Martin Palmer is also involved in. He admired the ambition chef Jake Kellie had instilled in the wholly wood-fired eatery.

“That’s the kind of scene that I wanted to be in with. That’s the direction I feel like I was missing, I guess, after Orana,” Sam says. “I needed a challenge again, another push.”

Trent Lymn, 2KW’s former executive chef, left the restaurant to head up new project Bar Riot, at the former Madre space on Gilbert Street, alongside his wife and Barrio partner Cecilia Teigeiro. This vacancy created exactly the challenge Sam was looking for.

Sam plans to build on the culinary direction set by Trent, which he describes as “very producer-driven” and “provincial cooking”, but the challenge is broadening the venue’s reputation.

“It does have a good reputation for dining [but] lot of people think it’s a bar, a rooftop bar,” Sam says. “I think we can work on getting more recognition for being more like a destination.

“At 11 o’clock it’s like a nightclub. The DJs are outside, there’s people on the dance floor… There’s a lot of people, they get pretty serious about drinking out there.

“Moving forward with the bar food, trying to get more people to eat outside as well.”

This picture: Jason Lucas


The venue also has a reputation for special occasions, perhaps because of its aspect over the city, but Sam hopes to also attract a more casual clientele.

“If we had an engagement party or everyone gets together, friends who haven’t seen each other for a year, I don’t want to take away from [that], but I want it to be a place that’s more accessible. You can just drop in and have lunch,” he says.

A few months in, there’s already evidence of Sam’s career on the menu. Native ingredients feature throughout – native thyme, ice plant and Davidson plum – though in mostly small ways. “Not every dish has to have native ingredients, we’re not a native Australian restaurant, but it’s part of my cooking, so it’s going to be on the dishes – if it needs it,” he says.

According to Sam, the king prawn dish, which features several native ingredients, is a perfect encapsulation of his approach to cooking.

“It’s local seafood, it’s cooked in the fire, we use the whole thing – we use the shells to make a dressing for it – and it has a little bit of native stuff too. So we add Davidson plum and mountain pepper and kutjera as a spice on top… and you eat with your hands,” he says. “That’s pretty much me in a dish. And it’s super punchy flavours, local ingredients and tasty.”

Humility gets in the way of any further philosophical musing on food, despite CityMag’s many attempts, and so it’s a pragmatist at the helm of 2KW – one who only wants to use his position on the eighth floor to dive deeper into his obsession with food, and one who considers the appeal of his new venue to be obvious.

“If I was coming to Adelaide, I would jump off the aeroplane, get in a taxi or Uber, and you could come straight here with your bags, put them in the cloakroom, sit down, have some good wine, have some good food, just chill outside on the balcony, look over the oval,” he says. “That’s the kind of place I want it to be.”

Share —