It takes passion to master the intricate art of wood-fired cooking. And in a thrilling representation of the understanding of craftsmanship between Burnt Ends and The Balvenie, the use of peats and staves from whisky making in this cuisine collaboration brings both crafts to the fore.
Burnt Ends has heated up the dining scene since it opened in 2013, not just in Singapore but internationally as wood-fired cooking became one of the lodestars of the best kitchens in the world. Chef-owner Dave Pynt is the adventurous restauranteur who moved from Australia to work with various mentors like Victor Arguinzoniz at Asador Etxebarri before choosing to base his restaurant in Singapore.
“Burnt Ends is basically a wood-fired barbeque restaurant with 4-tonne dual cavity wood burning ovens and four elevation grills. 90% of what we do is cooked on grills, in the ovens or smoked,” he comments. “We cook on wood because it is such an amazing process. If you don’t understand the process, you are not going to get a good result. You start the fire and it has its own life cycle. You’re building something up with a lot of touch and feel, and it’s a process I enjoy very much.” The cuisine, which presents inventive small and big plates packed with flavour and char, has been awarded with 1-MICHELIN star since 2018.
“We smoke the lamb shank in the peat from The Balvenie distillery, and you’re going to get a taste that you’re not going to get anywhere else in the world.”
For Pynt, craftsmanship is at the heart of everything he does. “When you talk about craftsmanship, you’re really talking about people who take time to understand what they’re working with and what they want their product to be, unlike a workshop,” he explains. From there, he gets into the Five Rare Crafts of The Balvenie and starts to spot the connection. “The craftsmanship of woodfired cooking, and the skill and intuition that you take from that, is similar to the craftsmanship of making whisky at The Balvenie. It takes a lot of thought, care and understanding of the product to really produce that beautiful product,” he muses. It helps that he’s a big whisky fan, who looks for the different tones and layers of complexity in the dram.
A Hands-on Experience
With The Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood, chef Pynt picked up on the notes of sherry, while also discovering its smooth profile. “We've taken that to work with it and build a dish that would really complement the sherry flavour in the lamb shank barbacoa. This dish has big flavours and is very interactive as well, which we like doing,” he describes. Because it is interactive, it gives a gentler rhythm to the pairing with The Balvenie; rather than finish the dish in one go, you can take your time to sip and eat while picking up the tacos in your hands.
Pynt additionally was able to get some peat from The Balvenie distillery, which prompted him to smoke the lamb shank with it before it was wrapped in banana leaves and a salt crust. “Spices like cumin, fennel, red peppers, oregano and others are combined into a nice paste, to create a contrast and flavours that you’re getting when sipping the whisky,” he adds.
“The reason I like drinking whisky is that there’s so much variety, including different types of cask,” Pynt enthuses. “Part of the fun is getting some of what you haven’t had before.” For him, The Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask brought different dimensions with its fruity cask, but primarily the note of vanilla.
“Every time you have a BBQ, you want to have an ice cream, right?” he laughs. “Ice cream, BBQ, whisky, it all goes hand in hand. This is our opportunity to give all of our diners a little ice cream before they go into dessert.”
As another surprise for diners, the whisky ice cream will also be served in a standing holder made from the actual staves from The Balvenie wooden casks. In addition, he also smokes those spent staves and drops them into the milk and cream base, before churning – just to add a little more The Balvenie finish into the ice cream.
Passion burns brighter
“There is a lot of fine lines in cooking with fire, and that’s why we enjoy it, it’s the mastery of hitting that perfect note all the time,” affirms Pynt. “If you ask me when I think I’ve mastered it, ask me when I’m 80.” To become good at it, he simply advises young chefs to cook more. “And it's really that simple, the more you do, the better you're going to get. As we come in to work everyday, we always look to get better to improve, to find little things that we can take up that little notch. The day we decided we have done enough is the day we need to retire.”
Burnt Ends x The Balvenie
From 7 September to 7 November, guests dining in at Burnt Ends may check out the two dishes and two whiskies from The Balvenie in the menu line-up.