Canada's Chefs: Jordan Holley, Ottawa ON

by Krlmagi

Chef Jordan Holley creates Asian-influenced food using local produce at Datsun in Ottawa.

As the youngest child of two working parents, Chef Jordan Holley often found himself cooking dinner for the family. In high school, he was in a co-op program and ended up getting a job as a dishwasher. Holley says, “I’ve been hooked by the culinary world ever since.”

One of his first working experiences as a kitchen manager taught him all about how to run the business side of a restaurant. Holley says that since then he’s mostly moved into management quickly after taking on a role, so he hasn’t worked with a wide variety of chefs.

Chef Jordan Holley
Chef Jordan Holley
John Finnagin Lin

He adds, “I’ve been working with my business partner Chef Matt Carmichael for a number of years now. We work together really well and complement each other. Our strengths and weaknesses balance each other out.”

The food that Holley is creating now at Datsun is Asian-influenced. The chef explains, “Our focus is on noodles, dumplings and steamed buns but we also have a great little raw bar where we’re putting out some nice raw fish dishes and some vegetable focused dishes. We work closely with farmers in season and design dishes around what they provide to us.”

The creative process of menu development starts with a base ingredient for Holley. He says, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a protein or a vegetable. I start by thinking about how I’d like to work with it. After that, it’s a process of elimination. Inspiration can come from something that I’ve seen on social media or a book I’ve read.”

B.C. Albacore Tuna Sashimi with Yuzu Ponzu
B.C. Albacore Tuna Sashimi with Yuzu Ponzu
John Finnagin Lin
Pork Belly Steamed Bun
Pork Belly Steamed Bun
John Finnagin Lin

A dish that Holley is proud of is his version of traditional ramen at Datsun. He says, “It’s getting better and better with every batch. It started out good but we’ve been tweaking the stock, tweaking the seasonings and how we’re inputting flavours. I’d definitely say I’m proud of that dish.”

Working closely with farmers is important for Holley. He sits down with them in January or February and goes through seed catalogues with them. Holley gets his main farmers to each grow something slightly different. He explains, “What you can grow up in Gatineau at Juniper Farms, you can’t necessarily grow in Carp at Acorn Creek Garden Farm. I get them to grow one new thing every year whether it’s herbs or a different kind of radish. They call me every Monday morning and wake me up bright and early. We go over their lists for the week and plan our menus that way.”

Being a good teacher is an important part of being a chef for Holley. He adds that patience and leadership skills are crucial. He says, “I scrub the kitchen down every night with my team. I’m right there in the trenches with them. I’m definitely a cooking chef, I’m not an office chef. I don’t hold that against anybody but it isn’t for me."

Datsun Wings
Datsun Wings
John Finnagin Lin

Holley speaks proudly of his kitchen team at Datsun and says, “If I really needed them to work fifteen hours a day, seven days a week they’d do it. They are a very dedicated, hard-working team. I also want people who listen. I always tell my team to take advice and learn as much as you can every day. I’m always learning something new from people around me.”

Vegetable-forward menus are something that Holley is happy to see in the culinary world. He explains, “A lot of people aren’t sitting down to as many heavy meat dishes now. It’s better for us, it’s better for our environment and it’s a healthier way to eat. My next project won’t be vegetarian but it’s going to have a very clear vegetable focus.”

There are many sources of inspiration that Holley draws on as a chef. He says, “I’m inspired by reading food literature and checking out social media. Instagram and Twitter have made this industry very small globally. A chef I worked with here in the past is now the chef de cuisine at Noma in Copenhagen. It makes me proud to think somebody from Ottawa has reached that level. It’s a tight knit community of chefs in Ottawa so we talk a lot and share a lot of ideas.”

Updated: 02/08/2016, Krlmagi
 
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