The chef de cuisine of Butcher’s Block shares his love of Hawaiian cuisine, and where he visits to indulge when he is back home

Originally from Hawaii, USA, Jordan Keao left for California when he was just 18 to pursue his passion for culinary arts at The Art Institute of California. There, he focused on Hawaiian fusion cuisine and practised the art of Japanese-style wood-fire grilling, before refining his skills in contemporary French cooking under chef Roland Passot of now-shuttered one Michelin-starred restaurant La Folie.
 
Before settling in Singapore, Keao worked at Google’s Bon Apetit cafeteria, in Silicon Valley. During this period, he also opened his first pop-up restaurant, Aina, in San Francisco, which served modern Hawaiian cuisine.
 
Today, he helms Butcher’s Block, and he and his team provide guests with an avant-garde wood-fire experience starring dishes that showcase his Hawaiian heritage.
 
Read more: Why Butcher’s Block Chef De Cuisine Jordan Keao Is All Fired Up

What do you miss most on the food/drink front when you are away from Hawaii or haven't been back for a while? 

Jordan Keao (JK): I miss the local food and fresh fish, including poke.

What are your favourite heritage dishes and where in Hawaii do you go to enjoy them? 

JK: I love Lau Lau, Kalua pig and Poi. Lau Lau is salted fish and pork wrapped with taro leaves, ti leaves, and banana leaves, and cooked in a fire built in the ground. Kalua pig is a whole pig that is also cooked in a wood fire dug into the ground. These dishes are hard to find as only a few restaurants prepare them properly. The places you can find these dishes are in people’s homes and at family gatherings. I typically enjoy these dishes at Helena’s Hawaiian Food

If you have visitors/guests with you in your home city, where do you ensure you always go to give them a real taste of home?

JK: I would take them to Helena’s Hawaiian Food. Located on the island of Oahu, it is a family-owned restaurant with three generations of the family currently working in the restaurant. It serves local classics to the people of Hawaii and is one of my favourites.

What is the first dish you eat when you return home and where do you go for it? 

JK: The first dish I eat when I return to Hawaii is Lau Lau and poi, at Helena’s Hawaiian Food.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in your home city? Please share one restaurant for fine dining and one for more casual dining experience.

JK: For fine dining, I would recommend Senia, a modern fine dining restaurant located on Oahu. Senia has won many dining awards and is known to be the number one place to eat in Hawaii and for good reason. I love how its food and style is modern, refined and soulful at the same time, showcasing home-grown ingredients from Hawaii.

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Where in Hawaii do you like to meet up with your old friends for food/drinks? 

JK: I love to spend the day at the beach barbecuing with my friends and family, surfing, and being in the ocean. When we go to the beach in Hawaii, we start in the morning and spend the whole day there. Sometimes we camp overnight, too.

Is there anywhere else in your home city that you never miss visiting when you are back home?

JK: Besides Helena’s Hawaiian Food and Senia, I also like The Pig and the Lady, a family-owned restaurant serving local style Vietnamese food; and Lineage, a restaurant with food that is soulful, humble and modern.  

What do you hope to bring back with you to Singapore after visiting Hawaii?

JK: I hope to slowly start introducing the local flavours of Hawaii to Singapore. My menu at Butcher’s Block, an avant-garde wood-fired restaurant, has some dishes with Japanese and Chinese flavours because that is what Hawaii is like. Its many cultures living together and introducing their flavours and cultures to create a unique food scene.
 

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