Earning its second MICHELIN Star in 2021, JAAN by Kirk Westaway embodies the quintessence of fine dining. Described by our MICHELIN Guide inspectors as a “romantic restaurant that has it all”, guests never fail to be marvelled by the restaurant’s food, service, ambiance, and gorgeous views.
JAAN’s executive chef, Kirk Westaway, makes good use of top-notch British produce and inspirations, harnessing uncompromising culinary values to dish out unforgettable dishes that leave a mark on his guests’ palates.
“British Food That I Love”
What Westaway has done in JAAN is to reinvent what British food means to him, which is in accordance to the produce he fancies and cooked in the style he enjoys. It’s all a very personal cuisine, and the fruits of his labour have been very rewarding. “It is, really, the food I love to eat,” says Westaway.
On the menu at JAAN by Kirk Westaway, seasonal produce has always taken the forefront. Westaway waxes poetic about the bounty of vegetables, which he describes as “the best — very seasonal, ultra-organic.” These greens are accentuated by fine proteins such as live Scottish scallops, Irish oysters, and langoustines, lobsters, cheese, and meats from the UK.
“Singapore is this incredible melting pot of cultures and cuisines, and I do have the flexibility of finding ingredients at the peak of seasonality perfection that I can bring in and use in this restaurant.”
"The key focus at JAAN is the best ingredients,” emphasises Westaway. “If I can find amazing produce from other parts of the world that fit the criteria of the seasonality, I'll lean into those as long as it's the best of the best that I can truly find.”
With proteins usually being the pièce de résistance and the vegetables usually being the accessories on a plate, JAAN works in reverse. “The focus will always be on the vegetables,” shares Westaway, “and, of course, you add a tomato or a pumpkin, and there'll be a type of meat working to elevate and enhance the flavour of the entire dish.”
On Ingredient Sourcing and Seasonality
“It’s really based on Mother Nature,” Westaway says when asked about his process when choosing the ingredients that have the honour of being plated on JAAN’s dishes. Westaway shares that he works very closely with a handful of suppliers in Singapore. “It’s all about teamwork. We need to have a close working relationship, and there must be an unwavering sense of trust.”
According to Westaway, it’s not always at the very beginning of the season that the best harvest comes. “For me, it's a couple of weeks in, a little bit deeper into the season, when you truly receive some incredible ingredients such as spring peas, morels, and asparagus. With a little patience, what you get are ultra-fresh, deep, strong flavours in the produce.”
“When it comes to planning the dishes at JAAN, I try to evolve every time. As much as possible, I try to defer from returning to a past year’s dish for the sake of my team’s creativity and mine.”
When asked why such is the case for Westaway, he says. “If I bring back an exact same replica of the dish we did last year and put it back on the plate again, I feel like I’ve failed.” He continues to highlight the importance of evolution, with particular emphasis on taste. “Taste, seasonality, and great ingredients — that’s all that matters to me.”
When it comes to inspiration, Westaway always looks to the seasons. JAAN is currently serving its early summer menu, and in it one will find the likes of violin courgettes; and a glistening selection of tomatoes that come aged, cured, and served with a refreshing and earthy basil sorbet.
“A certain kind of connection and friendship is a strong part of what I look for with the suppliers I work with. It's got to be the best. And I'm very lucky to have a handful of options in Singapore that really give their 110%. It’s teamwork.”
And it’s because of these reasons that choosing a supplier to work with is extremely important to Westaway. “When I look for suppliers, I look for those who are really focused on quality, on freshness, and on consistency. I lean into suppliers that have a lot of passion and a professionalism. We need to work very closely together — texting all night and all day. I'll text people at 2:00 in the morning, and they’ll reply, informing me if the cabbages are coming, or what time the fish and oysters will be arriving tomorrow.”
Not Rocket Science
To demonstrate his culinary philosophy, Westaway saunters to the kitchen where he lays out the ingredients to prepare a dish of Poached Turbot with Caviar Sauce
“The dish we're cooking today makes use of wild turbot as the protein. It comes straight from Ireland, and it’s an amazing fish that’s cooked with amazing ingredients. The dish itself is so special,” he says.
“We’re going to lightly poach the wild turbot in a broth made from the fish bones and some seasoning of parsley stalks and coriander stalks. After we poach it, the skin should be very silky and easy to remove; and then we're just left with this perfectly poached piece of fish.”
Scottish scallops come in fresh, delivered straight from a dock in Scotland to the Singapore port. “They’re always alive when they come in — so alive that they’re still pumping away!” exclaims Westaway. “We’ll lightly warm the scallops on the barbecue, and then, we’ll make sauce from the turbot trimmings, which are very rich, buttery, and fatty. We’ll also add some shallots and a bit of leek to it. Once the sauce is reduced, we’ll add a bit of cream, some caviar, chopped dill, and chopped chives.”
And then come the produce. For this dish, Westaway opts for green kale with a refreshing and tangy sauce made with Amalfi lemons. “I'm a huge fan of green kale. We have some kale that we've added a layer of burnt Amalfi lemon purée to. To make this lemon sauce, we'll burn some Amalfi lemons face-down on a very hot, solid top. Burn them until they’re black — around 30 minutes. Then, scoop out the centre, and then turn that caramelised lemon jam into a purée, like a ketchup.”
“It's not rocket science, but it's just great ingredients put together, cooked very simply, but not overcooked, not undercooked. It's all just pristine and fine.”
As one enjoys the dish, the acid and the sweetness lifting every part of the protein is noticeable. “You can detect the roasted scallop that was barbecued, and the turbot in the sauce. All in all, it’s a beautiful harmony among all the ingredients,” quips Westaway. “We finish with caviar and herbs because they add sweetness and a delicate, herbaceous quality to the dish.”
Elevated Comfort Food
When asked about the inspiration for this dish, Westaway says it came to him as he was snacking on kitchen scraps.
“I believe that ‘comfort food’ is a concept that I've leaned into more over the years. It's very tasty, but it's elevated here at JAAN.”
“This dish is sort of like an amalgamation of that ‘snacking in the kitchen’ experience,” he shares. “As with any chef in the world, we walk around the kitchen and take a little bite of the scraps, as you will, because there's always a bit of roasted scallop or some turbot trimmings on the side, or some vegetable, and I eat the scraps just to take stock with them.” The combination of these ingredients, Westaway describes, is magical.
A Decadent Journey
"I've been here [in JAAN] approximately ten years now,” says Westaway. “In that time, the restaurant has really taken on quite an evolution of where it was previously. And the journey continues, ” he expresses.
“Realistically, the time has passed so quickly, but during that time, we've definitely built a good reputation and have made some incredible leaps and bounds. Even though it has been ten years, I feel more determined now than ever to make JAAN a hotspot all the more not only in Singapore but also in the world,” expresses Westaway.
“I want to just carry on, grow, and develop as far as we can possibly go. I love to be here. I love to be every day. I love working with team. JAAN has become a real happy place for me.”
Westaway also speaks very highly of his team, sharing how incredible they’ve been and how close they are as both friends and colleagues.
“Most of my team have been with me for eight years, which is huge, and we're very close,” he continues. “We go out running together in the morning, we go out running in the evening, and we go and have some food and drinks together.”
He shares that just recently, the restaurant celebrated on of his waiters’ nine years in the restaurant. “To have that friendship with other chefs and a solid partnership with my team has been a great experience,” he says.
Turning Moments into Memories
“What I love the most about being a chef is the community,” says Westaway. “The people you meet and the happiness that you bring to people are priceless. When people come to dine at JAAN, they have an amazing time, and they leave with a memory.”
Comparing the dining experience at JAAN to an immersive experience in the theatre, Westaway talks about embracing the JAAN experience and taking it away as a memory to remember for the rest of one’s life. “That’s what we create here — memories. We turned this space into a very unique one, a very special one; a place where guests can enjoy moments and turn those moments into lifetime memories.”
JAAN by Kirk Westaway is located at Swissôtel The Stamford, Equinox Complex, Level 70, 2 Stamford Road, 178882, Singapore. Book your table here.
All photos are by Michelin.