Welcome to Fridge Tours, where we peek inside the personal refrigerators of chefs, bartenders, and food world personalities to see how they eat off the clock, in the privacy of their own homes. In this week’s violation of personal space, we visited Jeremy Chan, chef and co-owner of Ikoyi, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Central London.
It’s Friday morning and I’m 15 minutes late. Lost and rushing around Camberwell, I’m trying desperately to find chef Jeremy Chan’s basement flat. I realise I’ve been walking in the wrong direction for five minutes and to top things off, it has just started to rain. I finally give in and text Jeremy to plead for directions.
When I finally arrive and make it into his warm flat and out of the rain, apologising for my tardiness, Jeremy welcomes me in. “Don’t worry,” he laughs. “Sometimes it’s a nightmare trying to find this place because it’s so tucked away. We call it 'the crypt.'” Once I’ve caught my breath, I follow him through to the kitchen where he is pouring us both coffee.
As well as being an extremely understanding host, Jeremy is a celebrated chef. Last year, he and Iré Hassan-Odukale opened West African-inspired restaurant Ikoyi. Since then, their venture has been lauded as one of the most exciting places to eat in London and received a Michelin star.
So, what exactly does an A+ host and award-winning chef keep in his fridge?
Name: Jeremy Chan
Job: Chef and co-owner of Ikoyi
Lives in: Camberwell, London
How long?: On and off for 13 years. Jeremy recently moved back here about six months ago.
Now, let’s talk fridge … “This is actually a hand-me-down fridge from my friend’s parents who actually live above us and own the flat. They donated it to us, which is rather kind and it's a decent size.”
There’s a lot going on on the front of your fridge. Can you talk me through about what each item means? “Alia, my girlfriend, can probably talk you through it, as everything on the front is hers except for this menu and this note,” Jeremy says. “The menu is from a collaboration dinner I did in Berlin back in June and these are all the courses I did. I think it was 38 courses or something ridiculous and I somehow managed to do it all in two and a half hours.”
Alia chimes in. “That’s my dad at a wedding. [She points to a photo on the fridge]. He loves to eat but he’s the kind of person that loves free samples. We had these chocolate truffles at the wedding and he was obsessed with them, so when the music came on and everybody got up to dance, he swooped in like a vulture for the leftover chocolates on other tables.”
“There’s also a lot of random shit on here,” Alia continues. “Lots of Frida Kahlo because I’m obsessed with her and an In-N-Out burger wrapper that’s been there for a disgusting amount of time.”
What’s the oldest thing in your fridge? “I’m not sure probably these sansho peppers?” Jeremy says. “Most things in here are gifts. All the Japanese stuff was given to us from Dr. Kumiko Ninomiya, who’s a research professor who has written and published extensively on umami. She came to our restaurant to do a talk and collaborative event recently. She came bearing all these gifts and gave me the sansho peppers, which I’ll probably use on salads and roast pork.”
What’s with all the vacuum-packed stuff? “Again, this is all gifted. There’s some fermented yuzu, fermented herring, dried sweet potatoes, and some baby shrimps.
What’s the story with the caviar? “This was another gift from someone else. This is some caviar from Ukraine, but it’s not really up to scratch, which makes me sound like such a dick! It’s only because I’m a chef and am lucky enough to sample a lot of great ingredients that gets ordered to the kitchen. This is going to sound awful, but I guess once you’ve had the best nothing else that really compares.”
What’s in the Tupperware box? “Oh god, don’t look at them!” Alia cries. “I got into a random baking mood, but found out towards the end that I didn’t have any flour so I mixed in other bits to make up for it, so that’s why they’re kind of strange-looking.”
What’s in the big plastic bag on the middle shelf? “Have you been to Neal’s Yard Dairy? I don’t want to advertise for them, but their cheeses are amazing. I have a Colston Bassett Stilton, Montgomery's Cheddar, and a Tunworth.”
What’s with the strange dropper bottle? “This is pure caviar oil, which was also gifted. Surprisingly, you can use it in a lot of different things like broths or to season. I didn’t know it was a thing, but people have just started making this as a product. It’s for people who don’t necessarily want to buy caviar, but still want to add a salty sea flavour in their dishes.”
What’s the best thing in your fridge? “Probably the sansho peppers or the cheese. Actually, definitely the cheese. The Colston Bassett is just an incredible cheese that makes life worth living and the way it melts in your mouth always puts a huge smile on my face. I sound like I’m a spokesperson for Neal’s Yard Dairy but honestly, it’s so good! Do you want to try some?’” Before I can answer Jeremy produces a knife and cuts small pieces for everyone to try. “I never buy cheese, but we were wandering around in Borough Market and I ended up buying out the whole shop by the looks of it.”
What about the side door situation? “More cheese. You can never have enough! I think there’s some Parmesan in there too.”
What do you always have stocked in your fridge? “Parmesan and eggs. Sometimes when I come home late after a long day’s work and I have nothing in my fridge except for an old egg and Parmesan. I can quickly whip up a speedy cacio e pepe with the shittest ingredients.”
What’s your favourite condiment? “Probably miso or this kombu [dried kelp] that’s been preserved in kipper stock, so it’s really fishy. I chop this stuff up and just throw it on boiled rice. This one was another gift, but I promise I do regularly buy kombu at home!”
What about your freezer? “Oh I forgot about these frozen fermented anchovies. They were found hidden in a suitcase within the side zip. They smelt a bit, but they weren’t off, just fermented. They’ll last for a good while though I think.”
“So, they’ll probably be in the freezer until 2020 then?” Alia asks.
“Most probably.” Jeremy laughs.