Kirk Westaway of Singapore’s JAAN restaurant is the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 South East Asian region finalist. The 29-year-old sous chef will showcase his signature dish, called Forest Pigeon, at the Grand Final in Milan, the 26th pf June. He spoke to us ahead of the big event.
Tell us about your signature dish.
I involve each of the ingredients from the pigeon roasting: the breast on the crown itself; the heart and liver in a smooth parfait; the bones and neck for the sauce; the roasted leg; plus the pigeon’s natural food of barley in a risotto. The pigeon is the strongest point, in all of its elements.
What made you decide to become a chef?
I had a summer job washing dishes at the age of 14. There I saw the focus and drive of professional chefs. It was long hours, but the chefs were always on time, dedicated and passionate about their sections and produce. Watching them work, I was easily hooked.
Which chef or chefs inspire you daily and why?
Julien Royer is a very inspirational chef, full of charisma and energy. Good food is in his blood. I don’t think he knows how to do a bad dish. I recently spent a week in the kitchen of Christopher Kostow in Napa Valley, California. The food and produce there blew my mind.
What’s the best dish you’ve ever tasted - where did you eat it, who cooked it?
It was on a small desert island in Colombia. A large red snapper taken from the crystal clear blue sea, roasted over an open coal fire, with fried Plantain and a sweet chutney. Six friends drinking rum and fresh coconuts from the trees, toes in the white sand. All my senses were amazed.
What’s the most challenging aspect of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 for you?
I would say the last four minutes of the cooking competition, when you realise: “That’s it, no more changes. Whatever I have created, it’s got to go on the plate. Now.” It's bit of a manic rush.
What kind of help/guidance would you like from your mentor?
To offer solid ideas or options I haven’t seen or used before, something new that I can use to give my dish the wow factor.
What will you do if you win this competition?
If I were to win, it would be a great boost in terms of global recognition. It would really help me find a suitable restaurant where I can devote all my time and energy, to create and design dishes and service I can truly call my own.
Kirk Westaway & designer Ken Samudio double interview.