Jeremy Chan

Born in Hong Kong, Chan won a Michelin star in London for Ikoyi 18 months after opening. Fleur Rollet-Manus talks to him about sushi, African flavours and his love affair with peppercorns

How would you define your cooking style?

I’d say it centres on personal experiences. I look at how I can combine my best moments of eating to create something that other people would enjoy. I look intensively at flavour combinations and how I can optimise the taste in a certain ingredient. Ultimately, the reason I cook is because I’ve been inspired by something in my life.

And where have you been recently that’s inspired you?

Japan and South Korea. I was amazed by how respectful, polite and organised everyone was. I truly feel like Tokyo is my spirit city. If you’re going, squeeze in a few days in Seoul because it’s fantastic. I think what Dylan Watson-Brawn is doing at Ernst in Berlin is incredibly inspiring. It’s a hyper-creative experience.

Where should we eat in Tokyo?

Everywhere. From backstreet ramen to the Michelin-starred sushi, all of it is sensational. I was blown away by Sushi Saito – it is the apex of cuisine. I had built it up so much in my head and it did not disappoint.

What are your travel plans for this year?

I’d like to go to New Zealand as it looks beautiful. I’ve been to Canada plenty of times but would love to explore more of the remote parts and spend more time outdoors. I love going back to Copenhagen, too.

What have you learnt from the places you’ve worked?

From Noma and Dinner by Heston I learnt about organisation and work ethic. Also consistency and to use the best possible ingredients.

What did you take from West Africa to open Ikoyi?

My business partner is from Ikoyi, a wealthy province of Lagos in Nigeria, and when we visited I was stunned by the intensity of the cooking and the flavour. I started looking at the ingredients, how they interact and how interesting the West African pantry is. That is what drove my cooking when creating Ikoyi.

What are your favourite African spices to cook with?

The peppercorns from Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal and Sierra Leone. I use them to marinate meat and infuse ice cream with them. Peppercorns are the secret ingredient in my sauces and glazes.

Are they hard to get hold of?

Nothing is too difficult. That’s one of the best things about being in London. There’s a huge Nigerian community here, so suppliers are always coming back and forth with ingredients for us. They bring freshly harvested peppercorns, spices and underripe fruit like these really cool pink wax apples that we’ve got at the moment.

How do we experiment with West African flavours?

Go to Peckham Rye and walk into any African store. Smell and touch the ingredients and ask what they’re used for. Spices and chillies are good things to tap into. For me, it led to a lot of cool ideas.

We’re eating at Ikoyi. What should we order?

Some great dishes right now are smoked monkfish with a bone bisque, caviar with a tiger nut mousse and plantain ice cream with malt.

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