This week i had the pleasure of interviewing my executive chef Jordan Sclare. We talk all things food,and how to survive in a crazy kitcken.With a career any chef would dream of,anyone would feel humbled working with a chef of his claibre.
Who was your culinary inspiration whilst growing up?
There was a lot of cooking going on at home when i was growing up.whilst growing up it would have been at those times,who was on the tv. Ken Hom was one,he’s a chinese speedy chef.He was quite famous with his cleaver, cutting things really fast and was quite comical.
“The only option is to never quit. Times get hard and you need to be strong willed to continue”
How have you go to where you are now?
By hard work and never giving up.Thats probably the hardest thing when i think back to my apprenticeship.At 16 years old i started an apprenticeship at The Savoy,strand. They wanted one or two apprentices but would employ four or five as they knew half of them would end up giving up. It’s such a hard industry. quoting back then would mean i wouldn’t be where i am now,and hopefully where i will be in the next ten years. I still have a long way to go in my eyes,and the only option is to never quit. Times get hard and you need to be strong willed to continue. Don’t be the one who quits .
Is there a particular flavour that reminds you of your childhood?
My dad doesn’t cook,he’s out of the interview haha.He eats quite a basic selection of food. Fried egg and chips with bread and butter or cereal and milk. I’ve never seen him drink a glass of water or juice or anything.The only person who cooked in my house was my mother,or me and my sisters when we were a little bit older. A dish i used to get most excited about when i was younger was my mums version of Italian meatballs.I remember these really nice bitesize meatballs stewing off in a rich tomato sauce, full of green peppers dressed on top of some steaming hot tagliatelle.
“When you talk about a herb and spice cupboard you are referring to a journey around the world.”
Do you find it challenging constantly having to innovate new dishes? Where do you find your inspiration?
At the moment as I’m a group development chef for Bouillabaisse,Mayfair and Chotto matte,Soho and we get most of our inspiration from travelling . This wasn’t always the case.Growing up as a chef you get inspired from what you like to eat. When i was young and training in french or european style cuisine, i would Cook what i would loved to eat.At that time i loved asian food,particularly Chinese. I wanted to learn how to make chinese dishes as i always wanted to cook what i loved to eat . Now as a more senior development chef, developing for a group and opening multiple restaurants both at home and internationally, we are able to travel a lot.
“I then worked with Gordon Ramsay in a three Michelin star environment…”
A large part if my j0b is to travel around visiting different countries.For example, for the restaurant that we are in now (Bouillabaisse,mayfair) we travelled to Cannes , Nice, Venice ,Milan,Marseille, Copenhagen , Athens and Barcelona in just 8 days, to write the perfect menu. A lot of my inspiration comes from travelling, and seeking the best execution of the dishes i’m looking for. This is a fish restaurant so i went in search of the very best fish, for Chotto Matte we were looking for the best Nikkei food, which is a Peruvian Japanese fusion.We flew to Peru and i had previously visited Japan. Inspiration for me comes from travelling to those countries and really submerging myself into their culture,and eating their local dishes.
What would you advise to people that don’t have the ability to travel but still want to be fresh and original?
I used to visit covent garden market and speak to the suppliers every few months and see what was trending from their point of view regarding sales . There are so many things as the market you wouldn’t think of ever using and a lot of inspiration comes from visiting places like this as it doesn’t cost anything.
“Guidance is better that a verbal beating.”
What are three ingredients you can’t live without?
Thats a difficult question,I must have used thousands of ingredients in the past 20 years.
Soy sauce is something that is a game changer in the execution of our style of dishes, which is traditionally Japanese food .Herbs and spices are ingredients that really overtake any food like fish meat or veg,they really take you into a different demographic. When you talk about a herb and spice cupboard you are referring to a journey around the world.
If i had to pick one it would be coriander.
I totally agree,that would be one of mine too!
Chilli has also been a really important element to my cooking in the past.Different chilli’s from all over the world,for different flavours and different depths of spice. If you learn how to use those properly,even in powder form, you are opening your food up to a wealth of flavour.We use a lot of Peruvian Aji amarillo which is my favourite at the moment,they have really beautifully tasting seeds that add a special element to any dish .
“I’ve cooked for Michael Jackson,Beyonce,Jay Z…”
I know you as quite a cool,levelheaded person.How are you able to stay calm when the kitchen is often hectic and crazy?
What comes with experience are lessons you learn along your journey. From being an apprentice ,working in really harsh environments with over 110 chefs amongst 5 floors you can imagine how lost i felt. Very quickly you can either skink or swim. I then worked with Gordon Ramsay in a three Michelin star environment where there were only 15 chefs. The level of discipline was really high as were the quality levels and the verbal beatings and discipline was intense. Then i went onto different forms of management and became a manager myself and thought ‘how am i going to get the best out of people?’ ‘how am i going to communicate in a way that is nice and the message is followed?’ . You can scream, shout and loose the whole point of the message,but i made the choice at quite a young age in my management as a chef to be someone who works in a way which is beneficial to the growth and development of people.
I presume that if you are in the kitchen, you want to be a chef, you want to be there. If everyone wants to be there you have to manage them in a way which bring out the best in them. Guidance is better that a verbal beating.
Have you cooked for everyone you’ve ever wanted to?
I’ve cooked for Michael Jackson,Beyonce,Jay Z, Kylie , I’ve had Jamie Fox in the kitchen at Chotto cooking with me, there have been loads, too many to mention. Even bill clinton in a private house.
“People need to realise that theres a lot more to being a chef that just liking your job, in your head,you must be much more ,like you becoming a food blogger.”
What’s the best thing about being a chef?
I see my job as much more than being a chef. As a development chef/executive chef you must see your job as much more in order to get the most out of it. You’re a business man, a manager ,a developer of people . To see people grow is a really special thing for me. No matter what the position is in which they joined,i always like to see them leave a lot more valuable than when they came.
Seeing people develop and grow is one of my passions. Apart from all the obvious benefits like making amazing food,working with such wonderful ingredients, traveling , meeting so many people,and bringing them joy through food,the list goes on forever. People need to realise that there’s a lot more to being a chef that just liking your job.In your head,you must be so much more ,like you becoming a food blogger.
How does it feel to be involved in the opening in so many restaurants?
You get the feeling of the unknown.You’re opening restaurants as part of a team that you love to work with and you have no idea whats going to happen,which is a good thing.
There are so many exciting things that you discover when opening new restaurants,as well as learning from those experiences.
Every time you open a new restaurant you learn something different,and experience something new.When bringing together employees you also are able to work with multiple different nationalities and cultures. You learn their attitudes and opinions towards food and management and are able to grasp a world of opinions within each new venture.
I remember when you first interviewed me and i heard a little about your career,i was blown away,you’ve accomplished so much. where do you seen yourself in 10 years?
I feel like my career has only just started. Taking that next level to becoming a development chef and much more is just the beginning. I have been developing the Nikkei boys, which is myself and the head chef of Chotto Matte Michael Paul. We see that as great thing,with a rich future in our chef partnership.
I see myself opening many more restaurants with the group i work for.We are opening this year in Dubai, Miami,FL , and at Chiltern street with an organic Italian restaurant. There will be a lot of travelling,a lot of restaurants and a growing team. Soon there will be around 600 chefs working and growing as a team,which his a wonderful thing.
What’s you proudest moment so far as a chef?
I would definitely say not giving up. The hardest times are when you are new to the industry in a very disciplined kitchen and a hectic environment. Looking back now i’m really proud of not giving up when the times got really hard, much more that a non chef could imagine. Knifes getting thrown at me,things getting thrown in my face, falling down and getting knocked out unconscious, the stories go on forever.Part of me not giving up was the support i had from my family. I’ve always wanted to be a chef since i was around 7 years old,and the support i received from my family has proven hugely instrumental to my success.