A Work Week with Executive Chef Kirk Westaway of JAAN Singapore
What goes on in the work life of an Executive Chef at a Michelin starred restaurant in Singapore.
If you haven't been to the world-famous JAAN Singapore, then you really need to get down there. With a Michelin star under their belt, the modern British fine dining restaurant continues to be one of the finest, and most interesting restaurants in Singapore.
With a recent focus on 'reinventing British' food, Chef Kirk has recently been involved with showcasing the best of modern British dining. So, from the humdrum paperwork to overseeing the finest and freshest ingredients, here is what goes on in the work week of Chef de Cuisine, Kirk Westaway.
The pressure was on in today’s French lesson because my summer trip to France is just around the corner. I’ll be visiting local farmers in small villages around the country who will speak limited English, so I really want to make sure that I’ll be able to converse with them properly about all the ingredients I want, as well as getting their insights on the freshest seasonal produce. This varies from year to year depending on the temperatures and rainfall so I want to be sure that I’m really getting the best that nature has to offer. Today, I’ve done my research and came to class prepared with a list of vocabulary and turns of phrases that I will need when conversing with the farmers.
My French lessons is something that I take very seriously as languages are a key skillset for my industry – I speak Spanish at an intermediate level which has proven a really valuable tool. I really like starting the week with my French lessons as my brain is at its most absorbent then after Sunday, my only day off in the week.
After my Monday morning French class, I head to the kitchen to make sure that everything is in order for the first service of the week. This includes checking the produce inventory and designing the day’s menu.
Today I’m really excited for the Italian Punterella that’s coming in and I’m hoping to incorporate it into an exciting dish. Besides the uniquely bitter taste, the thing I really like about the Punterella is how visually striking it is.
A lot of my produce that I personally source and have flown in from all around the world naturally have a very short shelf life, which means that I need to be very meticulous in my inventory logging to ensure that I use all my produce and minimize food wastage as much as possible. Today, we received Scottish Kombu, which I source directly from a small producer in Scotland, Irish oysters and Cheddar cheese from my hometown Devon. A dish that I’m particularly proud of at the moment is the English Garden, which is inspired by my childhood memories of making Summer salads with my family. It features a combination of seasonal vegetables, including a multi-coloured and picturesque array of baby carrots, Romesco leaves, kohlrabi, tomatoes, baby gem lettuce, white cauliflowers, broccolis and radishes. There are over 30 different components in that dish, which means I need to source the right amount of each very carefully to avoid wastage!
In between the lunch and dinner service I grab a meal with my team at a nearby hawker centre before we head back to the kitchen to start prepping for dinner. I love hawker food and today my lunch of choice was a large bowl of laksa, which was perfect fuel for an intense dinner service.
As JAAN is part of the larger Swissôtel brand, part of my job involves quite a lot of paperwork. I spent the morning trying to clear all my messages and emails before lunch service but ended up having to continue replying to interview questions and scheduling in meetings in between lunch and dinner service. I spent the rest of my night after dinner service straightening out a hiccup in my summer travel arrangements. I ended up having to stay at work until 1am, clearing all my emails and messages. Long days are something that we’ve grown used to in this industry!
Tonight, I have an important private dinner for 25 guests, so I briefed the team before the guests arrived at 7pm. We always have a rock playlist blasting in the kitchen to get us pumped up for service and it really does work! Everyone is always in high spirits despite how tired we are from making sure that everything runs smoothly. I always make sure to serve at least one of the courses so that I can personally greet the guests, thank them for visiting JAAN and make sure that they have everything they need.
Today, we showcased our favourite dishes which included the Alaskan crab with mascarpone and the Violin Courgette with a Scottish Langoustine. As a fine dining restaurant, JAAN is great for hosting these types of intimate events and we often host private dinners during the weekday. Menus at these private dinners are tailor-made according to seasonality as well as dietary preferences of guests so the preparation for these events need to be meticulous. I’m very lucky to have such a hardworking team who I work incredibly closely with in order to achieve the JAAN standard of perfection from the snacks, the main courses, all the way to the final sweets.
No two weeks are the same, but I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with various incredible chefs as part of four hand collaboration. It’s such a great experience as it allows us to share ideas and learn from each other. Today, I am working on conceptualizing a number of exciting chef partnership ideas which I look forward to revealing soon. They can take months to organize. One of my favourite one in recent months was a partnership with Chef Bombana and his team hailing from the three Michelin-starred Bombana Umberto from Hong Kong. It was such a great experience learning from such a renowned chef. I’ll be hosting a four hands with Luca Fantin in late September, which will be a great opportunity for both of us to showcase dishes that stem from our heritage and personal experiences.
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