Jeremy Chan: journey to the Surface of Mars and back

Surrealism, thoughts, poetry. Back to the lesson from the English chef, the revelation of the Identità Milano congress

20-05-2019
Jeremy Chan, chef at Ikoyi in London, portrayed

Jeremy Chan, chef at Ikoyi in London, portrayed by Brambilla/Serrani

Shut up and eat me. If his dishes could talk, that’s what they’d say. Jeremy Chan presented two of them at "Contaminazioni", the format that debuted in the 15rh edition of Identità Milano, last March.

In and out of the kitchens of Rene RedzepiClaude Bosi and Ashley Palmer Watts, Chan opens Ikoyi in London with his childhood friend Iré Hassan (restaurant manager), a restaurant that undresses Nigerian ingredients and then dress them up with a tailor-made collection. «In fact, I’ve spent little more than 48 hours in Africa, but with Iré we concentrated all our cuisine on his hometown: Lagos». A cuisine which, though reassured by the luminous Michelin award (2019), wants to experience adrenalin every day. «I’m daring, I experiment, take risks, but there’s a strong intuition in my dishes. I truly believe in ideas». Chan never thinks twice: impulsive both in life and in the kitchen, when he experiments, he risks it all.

He wore a suit in a bank for a while, then he philosophized at university, and finally surrendered to the toque in the kitchen. Here he vents his talent with extreme humbleness, without expressing himself through esoteric dishes. He recreates flavours in a synergy of ingredients served with deliciousness. «There’s no such word in Italian. It’s a task, that of creating an experience for the guest». This is his secret seasoning, a mix of originality, risk and responsibility. A vinaigrette served in the silent dishes of Ikoyi, which are served on tiptoe, without distracting the eye.

Surface of Mars is made with raspberry salt: it’s spread over a marinated plantain of buttermilk with sweet African flour, with an emulsion of smoked chilli pepper 

Surface of Mars is made with raspberry salt: it’s spread over a marinated plantain of buttermilk with sweet African flour, with an emulsion of smoked chilli pepper 

Octopus coffee and celeriac 

Octopus coffee and celeriac 

«Restaurants are like theatres. The light, the texture, the sound of a plate when it touches the table, everything is thought over. It’s an artistic experience, but it would be pretentious to call it thus». Creation of flavours, unknown texture and crazy sensitivity: Ikoyi is one of the most envied podiums in London. And the palate is unsettled. It’s alienated by Surface of Mars, a dish with two simple and in fact very crowded islands: there are 54 ingredients in here. «I draw my inspiration from everything, from life, art, from any beautiful thing». Ingenious yet simple aesthetics, making use of the geometric shapes of the ingredient to preserve its integrity. Robotic and essential, but impeccable above all.

Surface of Mars, like the rest, is a surreal poem. «I imagine the ingredient in a vacuum: no culture, no origin, virgin. I alienate myself on purpose. I don’t read, I don’t check how it’s used, but I react with my instinct to give it a new identity». Jeremy takes a distance from the ingredient, he doesn’t recognise it, as if he had never seen it before. All that has to do with it, its roots, use, pairings, is toxic for creativity. Alienation is the trampoline that allows him to reach originality. And guests, when the dish appears, short-circuit. Their taste buds, nostrils and palate forget everything in a leap of faith.

Careful audience 

Careful audience 

Born in Hong Kong to Chinese father and Canadian mother, Jeremy Chan has lived between Canada, UK and US and finally moved to London 

Born in Hong Kong to Chinese father and Canadian mother, Jeremy Chan has lived between Canada, UK and US and finally moved to London 

«Think, think, think: I believe recipes are a process of research. I think a recipe, write it down, and cook it for my guests, without testing it». Jeremy conducts an obsessive research inside the most complete and complex library there is: the mind. Every recipe is perceived in his mind to be born only once served: guests will be the first to try it. And, even though he just has few characters in his dishes, Mr. Chan requires the audience to focus all their attention on them. Is it an artsy approach? Yes, he confesses he was inspired by the paintings of Velasquez which focus only on one protagonist. And Jeremy is already at work for the “debut” of the next character. 


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