Cardiff Character: Samuel Chowdhury

This passionate and hardworking restaurant owner and business man adds vibrant flavour to Taffs Well

Samuel Chowdhury works hard to make everyone feel welcome 

From the moment a customer steps into The Spice Connoisseur, an Indian restaurant tucked in the village of Taffs Well, Samuel Chowdhury is front and centre warmly welcoming them in.

The Cardiff-based, 44-year-old restauranteur, who is originally from Bangladesh, moved to Wales at the age of four.

“I’ve lived in Wales most of my life. So, I’m more Welsh than Asian, if you like,” he explains.

The Spice Connoisseur first opened on Valentine’s day in 2001 and 16 years on, the restaurant is still serving fresh Indian cuisine to the residents of Taffs Well.

A handful of regular customers fill the neatly decorated tables of the restaurant and the relaxed air bouncing between Samuel and those dining there creates a very comfortable atmosphere.

They affectionately call him Sammy. “Some call me Sammy, some call me Sam, I don’t mind either,” he says with a smile.

Sammy has been in the restaurant trade for 24 years, and his work ethic and drive are abundantly clear from the sweat on his brow, to the smile on his face when customers walk through the door.

A big portion of his clientele is made up of loyal customers which enables Sammy to be personable with everyone.

“I don’t call customers sir or madam,” he clarifies, before continuing, “I prefer to call them by name to make them feel more relaxed and comfortable. I want to make everyone feel welcome.”

His showmanship and hardworking attitude shine through.

The restaurant trade is “in his blood”

Sammy talks about his grandmother, the late Mrs Monowara Bibi, who he says was the first female Bangladeshi chef in Wales.

He also affectionately talks about his father, Mr Kolomdor Ali, a barrister, who is said to have opened the first Indian restaurant in Cardiff called Deedar alongside Sammy’s grandmother.

He says the knowledge passed down from his ancestors and the advice he took from his father contributed to his success in the business.

But Sammy’s willingness to also get into the kitchen and cook his family’s original recipes demonstrate his hands-on approach.

He whips up some bespoke dishes for two of his regular customers with the relaxed flair of someone who knows his craft.

The vibrant, aromatic spices and colours of the dishes he creates light up the establishment.

Samuel Chowdhury cooking bespoke dishes for guests at The Spice Connoisseur

The restauranteur becomes the teacher

With the rise in independent shops and restaurants closing in and around Cardiff, being a self-employed restaurant owner is not always easy.

When the topic comes up, Sammy’s tone becomes that of a serious businessman. “You’ve got to have the heart, you’ve got to have passion, commitment, you have to be dedicated.”

“It’s not easy, it is hard. You know with unemployment, Brexit, we’re facing a tough time, but you have to be one step ahead to overcome it,” Sammy says with confidence.

The restaurant business isn’t Sammy’s only passion, his heart also lies in Taekwondo which he has been training in for the past 35 years and teaching for 20 years.

And when he’s not teaching Taekwondo, he’s also imparting his business knowledge to GCSE students at a local secondary school, as well as to his two sons who he hopes will continue the family business if they wish.

“If I can help a child with what little knowledge I have,” Sammy says with pride, “and they can become successful in the future, I would feel some form of satisfaction that my advice helped them.”