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  • Writer's pictureSasha Huang

The Beauty of Wood-Fired Cooking, With Butcher's Block's Chef Jordan Keao

INTERVIEW


Growing up with wood-fired cooking during his childhood in Hawaii, Chef Jordan Keao's preferred cooking style fuels his intuition at Butcher's Block – an avard-garde smokehouse in the Raffles, Singapore



Chef Jordan Keao has a thing for fire. It all started when, as a child, his mother would prepare dinner and light around a kitchen flame. This would later spark a passion for the cooking method. Today, Keao still keeps that burning fuel for wood-fired cooking, as he brings his talents to Butcher's Block at Raffles Hotel Singapore.


During his culinary career, Keao found himself drawn to the land of his origin, Hawaii. He focused much of his time on perfecting his craft in Hawaiian-inspired cuisine. While he mastered the art of Japanese-style wood-fired grilling and entered the traditional Japanese culinary scene as a professional sushi chef, he also took on contemporary French cooking, and his arrival at Butcher's Block as the Chef de Cuisine brought him back to his earliest motivations. Now, Chef Keao honours his Hawaiian heritage through an avant-garde wood-fired dining experience. The restaurant is filled with true passion, liveliness and delicious dishes.


We chat with the Singapore-based chef about his inspirations and philosophies behind the menu:



1. How would you describe your cooking philosophy?


My cooking is about expressing the elemental affinity and finesse of cooking with wood fire. There is a wonderful dimension of flavours and textures that only wood-fired cooking can create. While many might think that wood-fire cooking is all about grilling, at Butcher’s Block we deploy a variety of wood-fire cooking methods that range from smoking with wood or dried herbs, slow roasting, high-heat grilling, burying ingredients with embers, to grilling in baskets directly over embers and hanging ingredients over the coals.


Also integral to our culinary philosophy is to use the whole animal, and reduce food waste as much as we can. We import whole lamb, pork and beef, and use the entire animal. Even fish bones are retained, smoked over the wood-fire grill and used to make a delectable sauce. To add, beef fat is trimmed from the meat and used to coat large cuts of beef for ageing and also to glaze our Hokkaido milk bread.



2. How have your Hawaiian roots influenced your culinary career and cooking?


I grew up in Hawaii where cooking, fishing, hunting and farming are a part of everyday life. As a young boy, I helped my mother set up the fire for cooking and learned a great deal from her. In Hawaii, outdoor cooking with wood fire is very common.


3. What makes the wood fire dining experience so unique?


At Butcher’s Block, using a variety of wood-fire cooking techniques showcases nuances and a beautiful depth of flavours that are uniquely forged by pure wood-fire. Even before the dishes arrive at the table, guests can take in the sights and action from the open kitchen with custom-built ovens and grills, and the meats and seafood displayed in The Vault, our walk-in temperature-controlled ageing room. Guests may partake in a good variety of quality produce that includes seafood, vegetables and meats- all cooked using wood fire. Examples include duck, corn, hamachi, leek, octopus, and lamb to the prized Rubia Gallega beef.


4. Can you share with us your favourite market when sourcing produce and proteins?


We source some of our produce from Genting farms in Cameron highlands in Malaysia. The farm is amazing, and we can get ingredients the next day as opposed to one that is imported from further away.


5. What do you hope the customers will take away from dining at Butcher’s Block?


Through the Butcher’s Block dining experience, I hope our guests discover a new appreciation for wood-fired cooking and the endless possibilities and versatility of this culinary technique. I am delighted to impress upon them the wide variety of ingredients that can be cooked using a wood-fire and the distinct flavours that can be achieved; I highly recommend guests to experience this through our signature Tour De Force, a specially curated multi-course menu.


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All food imagery courtesy of Adam Thompson | CSP Times

Chef Jordan's portrait image courtesy of the Raffles, Singapore



Address: #02-02, Raffles Arcade, 328 North Bridge Road, Singapore | Website: butchersblock.com.sg | Email: singapore@raffles.com | Instagram: @butchersblocksg | Facebook: @raffleshotelsingapore

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