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Brits abroad: Kirk Westaway

31 August 2016 by
Brits abroad: Kirk Westaway

The chef de cuisine at Jaan, a modern French restaurant in the Swissôtel the Stamford in Singapore, tells Katherine Alano why working out of his comfort zone has made him a better chef

What's the attraction of working overseas?

I have always believed in working overseas to get out of my comfort zone, to continuously challenge myself in different situations and to meet new people from all walks of life. It has broadened my horizons and definitely played a part in shaping me to be the chef I am.

You have been working at Jaan since 2011. You joined as a sous chef and were promoted last year. How has your role changed?

Since taking over the helm, my role has expanded beyond the kitchen. Not only am I responsible for kitchen operations, I also make a point to be aware of what is happening in the restaurant, by checking the guest list and working with the service team. I personally serve every dessert course as it gives me an opportunity to engage with the diners.

Tell us about Jaan being awarded a Michelin star

Jaan is an internationally recognised restaurant, with a well-regarded reputation for its exquisite culinary and service experience. It is an intimate space with a sophisticated interior that features a stunning Murano crystal and silver free-form chandelier spanning the entire length of the ceiling, with breathtaking views of Singapore.

How does the local culture and the ingredients influence you?

I take a lot of inspiration from Singapore's multi-ethnic culture. For example, we serve spanner crab, which we marinate and coat with a Thai-style curry sauce. The crab is mixed with apple and caviar and encased in a cauliflower foam that rests on a base of crab jelly, made from a seafood crab consommé, vegetable stock and egg whites. The dish is finished with coral dust made from crab roe and topped with Oscietra caviar.

Kitchen banter - something the Brits are well-known for.

Will you return to work in the UK?

I'd love to return to my hometown, where there is an abundance of fresh seafood and dairy farms. Setting up a small restaurant serving only the freshest produce to diners is something I have always dreamed about.

What do you like about living and working in Singapore?

The locals are friendly and interested to find out what goes on in the kitchen. I also love the fact that the head chefs of each restaurant in Singapore have formed a community and we share ideas.

Any dislikes?

None at all. I have learned that stepping out of my comfort zone has enabled me to adapt to different cultures.

What are the major challenges of working in Singapore?

The high expectations of diners. Having said that, it is their expectations that keep me on my toes and push me to strive for more.

Are there any other Brits working at the restaurant?

I am the only Brit in the restaurant, although I have a Polish sous chef who understands the jokes that I crack as he also worked in the UK for a while.

What advice would you give a young chef thinking about working abroad?

Respect the culture, never be comfortable and always challenge yourself. Never settle and keep pushing to outdo your best.

What's the hardest thing about working abroad?

The adjustment process is always a steep curve when you first arrive in a new country. Adapting to the way things work and falling in line with systems and processes usually takes some time. It took me a while to find my place and make sense of it.

Is there anywhere else in the world you would like to work?

New York. I love the speed and aggression of the city and how they have many cuisines. I am inspired by how diverse the dining scene is; from top fine- dining restaurants to the vibrant food trucks that line the streets.

CV

  • 2015-present Chef de cuisine, Jaan restaurant, Swissôtel The Stamford
  • 2011-2015 Sous chef, Jaan 2009-2010 Junior sous chef, Greenhouse restaurant, London
  • 2007-2009 Sous chef, Patterson's restaurant, London
  • 2001-2005 Exeter Catering College

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