The end of 2022 marked a truly significant juncture for chef Jeremy Chan and his 2-Michelin-starred restaurant Ikoyi. He closed the restaurant at its old location and moved it to new premises on London’s Northbank, He had briefly mentioned the move at the halls of Gastromasa conference last November, and his excitement for this new chapter was obvious. Chan has certainly achieved a lot lately. Ikoy was awarded 2 Michelin stars, and on top of that the Ikoy debut cookbook has been released.
Chan himself recalls 2022 as «gigantic, extremely anxiety-inducing but also joyful and triumphant… and exhausting, lots of emotions for one year, I was giving 100% of myself».
And it has truly paid off.
Jeremy admits to having solely written his debut cookbook «Ikoyi: A Journey through Bold Heat with Recipes», as he recalls «I started writing a year and a half ago, and finished in four months, expressing my history, cooking, family, and culture. Why I cook, why I follow certain types of flavour, the origins of my style…» This resulted in a documented journey of Ikoyi, starting from the creation of a 6-course meal for 60 people in the domestic kitchen for events, to the extensive personal research of the bold flavours and spices of West Africa and beyond, followed by the highest accolades.
The special section dedicated to rice describes Ikoyi’s iconic smoked jollof rice dish. A dish that is incredibly complex technique-wise with the balancing of timing and temperature. This ‘to the second’ precision dish is very close to Chan’s heart. This is a dish that speaks volumes about Chan’s approach to cooking, as he elaborates on the origins of the dish. Instead of making unnecessary improvements, he adds a new dimension to it, such as infusing it with smoky notes, inspired by the memories of the Hainanese chicken rice introduced to him by his father.
With its honest and humble essays, the book reveals the realities of how Chan and his friend Iré Hassan-Odukale, who now manages front of house at Ikoyi, started together and went on to be partners for 15 years.
«While some may think we had some big investors who paid for everything. The truth is it’s about two friends who had an idea. We started frying doughnuts in the store. 5 years later we have achieved two Michelin stars, through grinding lots of dinners and private events, starting very small.»
Jeremy does his own thing, his inspiration comes from within.
«Researching, practicing, intuiting, experience and senses. These are the required skills I honed in just a few restaurants. I honestly admit to taking positions for what they could teach me, and I never took a long-term restaurant job. I was never looking for a permanent 10-year-running chef role, in one place, as many do. I took short specific jobs from when I started aged 26».
Staying away from trends and media buzz, it is quite remarkable how Chan safeguards his own creative process. He would rather read non-gastronomy-related literature, preferring to review his own recipes and methods than those of his colleagues worldwide.