From South­gate to Soho via Peru

The kitchen at Chotto Matte, one of Lon­don’s trendi­est restau­rants, is over­seen by Jor­dan Sclare — a for­mer Mac­cabiah com­peti­tor

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - BY ANTHEA GER­RIE

WITHIN 18 months, half a dozen Peru­vian restau­rants have opened in Lon­don to near-univer­sal ac­claim. Peru­vian food, with its call for in­dige­nous yel­low chilis, and rare va­ri­eties of corn and pota­toes im­ported from 5,000 miles away is an un­likely food to be­come the toast of Lon­don’s chat­ter­ing classes. More sur­pris­ing is that one of the cap­i­tal’s Peru­vian hotspots is in the hands of a nice Jewish boy from South­gate.

Jor­dan Sclare, who pre­sides over the kitchen of Chotto Matte in Soho, is no stranger to the pages of the JC but in the sports, rather than the food pages.

“I played bas­ket­ball for Eng­land in the Mac­cabiah Games,” ex­plains the 33-year-old chef, who still some­times shoots hoops at JFS on a Sun­day.

We talk about his jour­ney from North Lon­don to deep­est Peru and back again, fol­low­ing a pi­quant and colour­ful lunch of tira­di­tos and a rain­bow-coloured assem­bly of finely-pared raw veg­eta­bles so frag­ile Sclare dubs it “pa­perthin salad”.

This is au­then­tic Peru­vian fare, but not quite as those familiar with the main­stream menu sta­ples know it. There are Peru­vian aji chilis, but there are also Asian f l a v o u r s and in­flu­ences in e v e r y d i s h . T h a t ’ s be­cause C h o t t o

M a t t e spe­cialises in Nikkei cui­sine, the fu­sion brought to Peru­vian kitchens by Ja­panese im­mi­grants who have de­scended on the coun­try in waves over the past cen­tury.

Which is how Sclare came to Peru­vian food — by way of Nobu Park Lane, whose epony­mous owner is also in­fat­u­ated with Peru and adds Nikkei touches to his Ja­panese cui­sine.

Sclare’s jour­ney rney started in South­gate. “I’ve I ve always loved cook­ing for the fam­ily — I scram­bled eggs for them from the age of five — and I’ve wanted to be a chef since I was 14,” he says. “I had my first cater­ing job at the e place where my bar­mitz­vah re­cep­tion was as held. It was my work ex­pe­ri­ence and they let me be a chef for two weeks rather than a dish washer — deal­ing with eggs and mak­ing sand­wiches.”

Hedg­ing his ca­reer bets, Sclare also kept up his train­ing for the Mac­cabiah, and went on to rep­re­sent his coun­try in Is­rael. “Dur­ing the Games I se­cured an ap­pren­tice­ship at the Savoy, and wasn’t go­ing to sac­ri­fice the chance of be­ing a pro­fes­sional chef to pur­sue life as a bas­ket­ball pro.”

It was a tough ex­pe­ri­ence keep­ing up with one of the world’s big­gest kitchens while also at­tend­ing cater­ing col­lege.

“My mum saw the open­ing in a pa­per and took me for an in­ter­view with An­ton Edel­mann. They had 110 chefs work­ing in a kitchen on five floors; I worked with Wil­liam Cur­ley, the fa­mous pas­try chef, and other great guys I still re­spect to­day.” Yet it was Asian rather than clas­sic French food which cap­ti­vated Sclare. “I always loved eat­ing Chi­nese — the mix of sweet and sour was so dif­fer­ent from the flavours I worked with at the Savoy, and what I liked to eat was what I wanted

to make.”

How­ever, he put that am­bi­tion on hold to prove he could sur­vive a week with Gordon Ram­say at his three-Miche­lin-star restau­rant in Chelsea: “I ended up stay­ing three and a half.”

When he dined for the first time at Nobu Sclare knew he had found the right venue to hone his am­bi­tion: “I worked there for five years and ended up lead­ing the kitchen when t the h restau­rant wa was voted seven enth best in the w world.”

But al­though h he had an inkli ling of the flav vours, which h had en­chanted Nobu dur­ing his­timeinLima, he had to go to Peru him­self to learn how t o p r e p a r e auth au­then­tic Nikkei cui­sine — the owner’s vi­sion for Chotto Matte.

“Healthy eat­ing is para­mount to that vi­sion, so it’s not just about us­ing cit­rus and the right amar­illo chili,” he ex­plains. “Our raw bar has got big­ger and big­ger, our tem­pura menu has shrunk, and we are us­ing in­gre­di­ents like miso, sake and soy sauce which are miss­ing in Peru­vian food and adding a cer­tain ele­gance which comes from the Ja­panese.”

Chotto Matte has a size­able Jewish clien­tele, many of whom have fol­lowed Sclare from place to place: “Not all are that ad­ven­tur­ous, but they ap­pre­ci­ate the fact I will tai­lor the menu for their per­sonal taste.”

Favourite dishes with Jewish cus­tomers in­clude the Dragon Roll — a maki roll of rice and sea­weed stuffed with sal­mon, dec­o­rated with over­lap­ping scales of av­o­cado — and the pa­per thin salad, a dish of out­stand­ing beauty fea­tur­ing shaved beet­root, daikon radish, car­rot and other colour­ful veg­gies. They are mar­i­nated in a dress­ing that’s not only packed with nu­tri­ents but also sweet and sour, a re­minder of the sweet and sour chicken from his lo­cal Chi­nese which got Sclare slav­ing over a hot stove in the first place.

www.chotto-matte.com

PHOTO: CHOTTO MATTE PHOTOXXXXXXX

Chef Jor­dan Sclare al­most be­came a pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball player; top and in­set: Chotto Matte in Soho

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