Leeds restaurants: Meet the head chef of Salute at the White Swan in the heart of Rothwell

From fresh asparagus to rhubarb picked from farm shops in the Rhubarb Triangle, Maila Samatauskaite gets her inspiration from the wealth of produce around her in Rothwell.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 12th March 2022, 4:30 pm

The 30-year-old is the head chef of Salute at the White Swan, a contemporary Italian restaurant in the heart of the town.

Salute opened its doors in 2004 in Woodlesford before taking over the White Swan pub in 2006.

Maila joined the team in 2019 and quickly progressed to head chef, impressing the owners with her eye for presentation and commitment to using local produce.

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Maila Samatauskaite, 30, is the head chef at Salute at the White Swan in Rothwell (Photo: Simon Hulme)

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Born in Estonia, Maila started cooking for her busy family when she was 10 years old.

“I felt like I needed to do something for my family," she told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

“We lived very close to the forest so I would pick up mushrooms and blueberries, I’d make pastas and sweet bakes to have something on the table when they came home from work."

Maila's love for pasta dishes and Italian food, as well as seasonal produce, made her the perfect match for Salute at the White Swan (Photo: Simon Hulme)

Maila never intended to pursue a career in cooking; she fell into the industry by chance when her friend offered her a summer job in an Estonian kitchen when she was 17.

She was trained up and stayed at the restaurant for a decade, serving authentic Estonian food - pancakes, fresh salads and main courses using local fish.

“My boss lady really opened my eyes to everything," Maila added.

“She was like a second mother to me, she was always by my side.”

Maila's love for pasta dishes and Italian food, as well as seasonal produce, made her the perfect match for Salute at the White Swan.

Three years ago, she moved more than 1,700 miles to join the team.

On Maila's menu is a large selection of pizza and pasta dishes, as well as meat and fish main courses, risotto and a range of starters and desserts.

When she isn't working she is often out working in nature, where she picks up inspiration for her menus.

Maila said: "We use loads of local produce, we’re near the rhubarb triangle so we use lots of rhubarb, local asparagus and produce we find in local farm shops.

“The pastas are my favourite dishes. With pasta you can create everything - any flavour, for any person’s taste.”

Three young customers visiting Salute with £9 between them went viral last month and were treated to extra pizza and fries after they impressed staff with their mature attitude.

The restaurant is a place for everyone, Maila said, and customers can expect to be greeted with a warm smile.

Maila added: “Our customers will have a welcoming and homely feeling when they dine here, our staff have been trained to welcome customers with warmth and to feel like they’re always welcome.”

Salute continued to serve its customers with takeaways in lockdown and while it was a challenging time, Maila said it brought the team closer together.

The restaurant has been bustling since lockdown restrictions were lifted.

"I love the excitement of not knowing what the day is going to bring," Maila said.

"Some days are quite slow, then other days out of nowhere service can be so busy.

"I love when everything is running smoothly and I’m transformed into a different person in the kitchen.”

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