Jordan Bailey, head chef, Maaemo, Norway

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Other 21st April 2016
Jordan Bailey is the head chef at three Michelin-starred Maaemo in Norway. He has worked with several top UK chefs starting his career with Phil Thomas at Roswarne Manor before joining Simon Hulstone. After three years grounding in the industry at The Elephant with Simon, Jordan then went on to work with Sat Bains. It was from Restaurant Sat Bains that he then moved to Norway and took on the role of chef de partie at Maaemo. This year it received its third star and now working as Esben Holmboe Bang’s head chef, Jordan talks to The Staff Canteen about his current role, why he was so intrigued by culinary competitions and why he wants to open his own restaurant in his home county of Cornwall. Jordan Bailey vegWas being a chef always the plan? No, there’s only one chef in the family and that’s my uncle, so he was the only vision I had into this industry. I started going down the line of training to be an architect but I did a short apprenticeship and I hated it, being stuck in an office, I got very bored! I was working in the kitchen at a hotel in Cornwall while I was doing my A levels and I fell in love with it. Every time I left the kitchen I just wanted to get back in there. You were at college when you were offered a job at The Elephant with Simon Hulstone, why did you choose that over finishing college? It was an amazing experience and going into the kitchen I knew Simon was a competition chef. And I wanted to go in there and steal his knowledge because I found it really interesting. No one in Cornwall really did anything like that. What was it that attracted you to competitions? Like I said, there was nothing like that in Cornwall, so it was the mystery of it. Obviously being a chef I like the pressure, I feel like I learn a lot more. After I did a couple with Simon, with his guidance, it really betters you as a chef – just in everyday practices, like working clean and tidy, getting everything up on time, you learn a broader aspect of the kitchen because you are not just doing the one section. Also, using ingredients you don’t normally use in that restaurant at that time – being by the sea we didn’t do a huge amount of meat protein so it was good to get in rabbits and hare. I did South West Chef of the Year, Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards, I helped Simon in the Bocuse d’Or in the European qualification and the world final. I also went to the culinary Olympics with him. Did one stand out to you? The biggest one was obviously Bocuse d’Or, just the panel of judges is second to none and with Paul Bocuse’s name behind it, it’s just massive. If you win that competition or even get into that competition, it kind of changes your life. As well as learning about competitions, did you take away a lot from working with Simon?Interior_13_credit_Bandar_Abdul-Jauwad low res Yeah, I got a solid grounding there which gave me the platform to take that next step up. We also started to run our own farm there, so it gave me an insight into that, it was amazing and I’ve not really had that chance since then. It was really hands on and you appreciate where all your stuff comes from. Being in the South West you are surrounded by incredible products, definitely now I appreciate it makes a huge difference, the places I’ve seen around the world that don’t have that luxury, you appreciate what you have around you. From The Elephant you went to work with Sat Bains, how was that? I went for a two day trial and I had to put up three dishes using just what was in the fridge, within an hour and a half! I found out later they don’t normally do that, but it went well, it was a big pressure having all the chefs in the kitchen taste your food. I was there for two years, it was the next step up again which was what I wanted. One thing I always look for when I go to a restaurant is that the chef whose name is above the door, is working there on the pass. That’s my one big rule, so I can officially say I trained under Sat Bains or Simon Hulstone. Working at Sat’s was incredible, the attention to detail, in every aspect – it was very military like in a good sense and I like that. I can’t work in a dirty kitchen, with no organisation – I can’t focus. I took a lot from that side of things. Sat himself is obviously self-taught, so he doesn’t have too many influences, I think that’s where he gets his own style form and I think he really passes this on to the chefs who work for him. So, how to look at ingredients you see every day and use them in a completely different way. jordan bailey quoteYou were looking to go abroad after Sat’s, how did your move to Maaemo happen? I sent out my CV to about 12 places, initially just looking for a stage as we had an extra weeks holiday, I got an email back from Esben directly saying he knew I was looking for a stage but ‘if your CV isn’t bullshit, we’d love to have you here’. That’s Esben through and through. I decided to just go for it, what did I have to lose? You’ve been there a year now, what has that been like? The last 12 months have been an absolute rollercoaster. I started on pastry and quickly moved around the kitchen. I was promoted to sous chef after four months, now it’s Esben, then me and we have five chef de parties and around 10 stagiers – I’m responsible for them all. You didn’t meet Esben until you started working at Maaemo, what is he like as a boss? The thing about Esben is he is very young, and it intrigued me how someone who was only 32 at the time, could run a kitchen to this level and standard. I was hoping I could learn a lot for when I open up my own restaurant, just to see how he did it and how he coped. I got along with Esben very well from the start, and it took my breath away from the first day seeing how amazing the produce is. The fish we get here, Cornwall is obviously very good, but the seafood here is three times as big as you’ve ever seen it before. It comes in so fresh, some days you can’t even use it. Me and Esben work very differently, he’s very visual, he has an idea of how something should look and attaches the tastes and textures to it. I’m the opposite, I focus on how it should taste then I get everything in front of me and make it look nice. We attack it from different ends which works out very well.Esben_10_credit_Tuukka_Koski low res Are you involved in the menu? The food style here we don’t really mess around with things too much, because we don’t need too. There’s no need for theatrical displays to cover up bad produce, you just cook it as best you can, put it on the plate with a simple garnish. Everything is really thought out to allow the main focus of the dish sing. Over the past year the restaurant has changed and Esben has changed quite a lot. You’d have to speak to him but I’d like to think I’ve had some sort of play in that. When I first started the menu was only him, he did everything which was staggering too see. Then we got a development chef, so Esben would come up with ideas but the development chef would make it work. But the whole kitchen wasn’t really involved in this whole process, there were no ideas coning back and forth between the main kitchen and the development kitchen. I didn’t like it and it didn’t make sense to me especially in this kitchen, it’s very international and pretty much everyone who works in it is from a different nationality. It blew my mind that we weren’t using these different backgrounds to look at ingredients differently. I said to Esben, ‘why aren’t we doing this?’ So now every fortnight we do different projects either with guidelines of using the same ingredient or they can freestyle and come up with a completely new dish, things like that. Nwo we have say 20 dishes on the menu and I’d say eight or nine of them were mine. Have any of these projects produced dishes which have ended up on the menu? Yes, it’s not gone straight from the project and then onto the menu but we’ve taken the technique or cooking process, or an ingredient we have never seen before. maaemo__Norwegian oysters with mussels and dill_credit Tuuka KoskiYou got your third star this year, what was the team’s reaction and how do you then step up and maintain that? Esben was told before it was announced publicly that he had three stars so it was hard to keep it a secret. But it was amazing to watch him being awarded them on the live stream from Copenhagen, we were trying to have a normal day here at the restaurant. There were a few glasses of champagne but about ten minutes after it was announced there were cameras everywhere! We still had a full restaurant, but it was only going to happen that day and you have to enjoy it while you can. Even since Michael Ellis and Rebecca Burr from Michelin came last summer to eat, we all feel as a restaurant that we have easily gone one or two steps higher than that again. From small things like changing the cutlery to the dishes themselves, they have evolved and gone through improvements. There are still a hell of a lot of things they haven’t even seen yet for when they come back, so we are excited. Have you found a favourite ingredient native to Norway that you enjoy using? Obviously all the seafood is like nothing I have ever seen before. Langoustines in England you’d be lucky to get them the size of your index finger, the ones here are the size of your forearm. Then there are things they have used here for years like dry cured fish, or lamb which has been dry aged for two to three years and salt dried by the sea. We use the rib which is called Pinnekjøtt and also Fenalår. They are ingredients you won’t really get anywhere else in the world. Also, Rømme, it’s a Norwegian sour cream which they use to make a famous dish which is like a sour porridge, but it’s not oat based it’s like a béchamel made with sour cream. We put a smoked maaemo_scallop with caluflower and salted butter_credit Tuuka Koskiand dehydrated reindeer heart on top of it because you traditionally serve it with cured meats, so that’s our interpretation of it. It’s by far my favourite dish on the menu. And what are your plans for the future? It’s a question I ask myself every day! I’ve got no time scale of how long I want to be here but I’d like to travel, go to destinations where a restaurant or a cuisine interests me. Stay for a few months and stage at restaurants around the world. I’d like to do that for year, then may be one more job and then hopefully open up my own place. I haven’t got anywhere set in my mind where I want to do it but if I could do it anywhere it would be back in Cornwall.    
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Other 21st April 2016

Jordan Bailey, head chef, Maaemo, Norway

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