An English chef who has worked in France, Australia and much of South America (Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador) now heads a French restaurant in Singapore, and recently won a prized culinary award for a dish incorporating Asian ingredients. Chef de cuisine of JAAN, Krik Westaway, could not be more cosmopolitan. At the time of writing, he is off to Milan to pit his culinary chops against 19 of the world’s finest young chefs under 30 at the international grand final of the San Pellegrino Young Chef 2015. He beat nine others at the Southeast Asian semi-finals to secure the coveted spot.
His winning dish, Forest Pigeon , which he will be replicating at the grand final features pigeon imported from Brittany that is delicately cooked sous-vide (sealed in an airtight plastic bag and immersed in a temperature-controlled water bath) for 30 minutes. The pigeon legs are then confit (slow-cooked in grease) for four hours while the rest of the fowl is pan-roasted with thyme, garlic, hay, and bay leaf. The bird is then served with Chinese artichoke on a bed of barley risotto with gravy made from the bones and cooking juices, and a super smooth parfait whipped from the liver and heart.
Working with winners is nothing new to the 29-year-old. He has earned his chops at some of the best restaurants in the world - 3AA Rosettes Michelin-rated Patterson’s Restaurant Mayfair, London; 4AA Rosettes, Michelin-starred Greenhouse Restaurant Mayfair, London; D.O.M, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, currently ranked 9 th on The World’s Best Restaurants 2015; and Daniel Boulud’s eponymous two-Michelin-star restaurant in New York. Now, Chef Kirk has taken over the reins of multi-award winner, JAAN, from Chef Julien Royer after three and a half years as the restaurant’s sous chef.
The intimate 40-seat fine dining French restaurant whose name, oddly enough, is the Sanskrit word for ‘bowl’, has pride of place on the 70 th floor of Swissotel the Stamford and commands a spectacular view of Singapore. Aesthetics aside, JAAN is a winner in the world culinary circuit. It is renowned for its outstanding cuisine that emphsises the finest, freshest of ingredients creatively prepared and beautifully plated. This year, it ranked 11 th at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and 74 th at the World’s Best. Both awards were sponsored by fine dining water brands, San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna. It also won the Hall of Fame Award at Singapore Tatler’s Best Restaurant Awards 2015 as well as the Award of Excellence and the Best Dinner Experience (Western) Award of Excellence at the G Restaurant Awards 2015.
INSIDEspoke to Chef Westaway about his recipe for success.
INSIDE: JAAN has won so many awards. Which have you been most proud of?
Westaway:Every award we receive is a testament of the hard work and efforts of the team. But I think the awards that we were most heartened to receive were the 11 th ranking on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 and the 74 th ranking on The World’s Best Restaurants 2015 because they affirm JAAN’s acceptance and position in the global culinary scene.
INSIDE: Are there any awards you aspire to win for JAAN?
Westaway:We will always strive for global recognition but we never forget that our immediate guests are here in Singapore. So, local culinary awards are particularly precious to us and something we will work towards.
INSIDE: Talk to us about your recent win at the San Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 Southeast Asian semi-finals.
Westaway:It is a real privilege for me, and I am thrilled to have won. I started with pigeon because it is one of my favourite meats to work with. The name of the dish – Forest Pigeon - came to mind first. From there, I built the dish around the habitat of the pigeon and then brought in elements of its natural surroundings, which is why I used barley because is what pigeons eat naturally. Then, more and more components were added.
I envisioned a well-thought out dish with a rich flavour and full texture which is achieved through precision cooking. Forest Pigeon is a dish which holds a nice balance of tastes and textures.
INSIDE: What do you think are winning elements in JAAN’s menu?
Westaway:A truly exquisite culinary experience from start to finish has always been our hallmark. Our focus on presenting the freshest produce from all around the world, where ingredients are the star of every dish is one culinary philosophy that has kept our guests returning again and again.
INSIDE: Can you recommend us some winning dishes at JAAN?
Westaway:Signature dishes are rarely created to be signature dishes. Rather, these dishes are typically an outstanding balance between ingredients that both our guests and chef love, which allow them to eventually evolve into our guests’ favourite dishes on the menu. One key dish that will always be available on our menu at JAAN is the ‘Hay-Roasted’ Pigeon. Whilst pigeon is the key ingredient used in the dish, the accompaniments vary from season to season.
INSIDE: How did you become interested in cooking?
Westaway:I spent my childhood years growing up in a small seaside town on the Southwest Coast of England, a region famous for dairy farms and the production of rich clotted cream. I became interested in cooking from a very young age. I would often harvest home-grown, organic fruit and vegetables with my parents and that developed into a love for quality produce which became a keen interest in how such produce is transformed in the kitchen.
INSIDE: Do you have a favourite ingredient?
Westaway:I cannot resist using the heirloom tomato. Heirloom tomatoes release an incredibly intoxicating aroma so much so that you can almost smell the sun, the grass, and the beautiful gardens they were grown in.
INSIDE: How did you learn how to cook?
Westaway:I was working in a restaurant washing dishes the summer I was 13. One day, a chef was ill and I had to take over the salad section. What was supposed to be a summer job, eventually continued through to the following year, where I worked on different sections in the kitchen. With the encouragement of the Head Chef then, I eventually enrolled in a culinary college and completed a three-year culinary course in the city of Exeter. During my third year of college, I worked on a three-month job in a one-Michelin starred restaurant in Brittany, Northern France in addition to several other culinary jobs for experience – including some time in a butcher shop where I learnt to prepare meats such as pork and lamb.
INSIDE: What has been the most valuable lesson you have learnt?
Westaway:The focus on allowing the character of each ingredient to shine on its own. This has, no doubt, been further reinforced over the years I’ve been working alongside Chef Julien Royer. In order to allow each ingredient to speak for itself, it is important to ensure that our produce used is of premium quality. The quality of ingredients has to be maintained at the peak of perfection, and I’ve learnt to never alter my vision when it comes to quality.
INSIDE: Growing up, what was your favourite food?
Westaway:I grew up in England, and my favourite indulgence would be comfort food from my home country of course - cottage pie, or sausage with mash, drizzled with plenty of onion gravy and a dollop of English mustard!
On my days off, I bake sourdough bread or make stews with slow-cooked beef, vegetables, and roast potatoes. I find cooking incredibly relaxing.
INSIDE: What do you think of Singapore’s cuisine?
Westaway:I love local crabs. The ones I have tried are deliciously sweet and fresh. I hope to use them in my dishes one day.
Dine with us:JAAN