The Carnivore’s Dilemma with Edouardo Jordan
The relevance of the ‘neighborhood restaurant’ has seen a resurgence in Seattle over the past couple of years with mainstays such as Bar del Corso, Delancey and Pair seeing great success. The notion that people want to be able to walk to their local restaurant vs. drive is more European than American but it’s a welcome one here in our fair city.
Chef Edouardo Jordan has continued with the burgeoning trend by opening Salare in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood. And by doing so he’s hoping to transform the area and local taste buds alike. He’s a master of charcuterie and has a singular goal – to run a restaurant that neighbors and families nearby can call their own. Here’s his story…
So tell me about your background and why you became a Chef
I grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida and I’ve been around food all my life. Whether it was Sunday suppers, at my grandma’s house or around the holidays – my family always came together via food. I was always intrigued about what my grandma put into the cool, exciting dishes she made. I’m from the South and she made a lot of Southern influenced stuff. Things like chitlins, game meats, possum, raccoon and snapping turtles weren’t uncommon on our dinner table. I was interested in seeing the process from catching a wild animal to harvesting it to putting it on the plate. It’s in my blood and is exciting to me.
Did you go straight into culinary school?
I didn’t think I was going to go into the restaurant industry and I earned dual degrees from the University of Florida in Sports management and Business Administration. I thought I was going to have a career in sports management or as an agent. But while I was in school I started a little blog (before the blog thing was popular) and was like this unknown restaurant critic.
During this time I realized that I was creating better food at home than some of the places I was going to. As I delved deeper into the food industry, I was cooking more at home throughout my college life and was impressing friends at different events and parties. So I decided to go to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando where I graduated with honors. I started seeking out the best restaurants around and got a job in Tampa at a place called Mise en Place. There I learned a bit about sausage making and worked the garde manger and pastry stations. I wanted to learn how to make really good sausage so I started dabbling in that and then making bacon – which is the ‘gateway drug’ for charcuterie.
What a pretty wild change of career choices. Where did you go from there?
I landed an apprenticeship at The French Laundry in Napa for 6 months where I floated a bit between stations but eventually embedded myself next to the butcher. He actually lives in Seattle now – Mark Bodinet at Cedarbrook Lodge. We were attached at the hip and had fun doing various things. There was always had a laundry list of things to do. Mark called me ‘’Fast Eddie” and I was his wingman helping with daily tasks. I was learning more about cured meats, making blood sausages and I was like ‘whoa’.
From there I went to The Herbfarm in Woodinville and that’s what jump started my education on the process of curing meat. I was working with Jerry (Traunfeld) and he left to open Poppy in Seattle. So I told Ron and Carrie (Zimmerman and Van Dyck – the owners) that I enjoyed curing meats and wanted to do it there. They approved so I started a program. They supported me in taking an educational seminar at Iowa State University which was a blessing and really good experience. I hand-built this cabinet that housed all the cured meats and was making coppa, lonzino, some hams and several salami.
That sounds like an amazing opportunity from some very supportive people.
It definitely was. After a while I decided to head to New York and worked at Per Se and Lincoln Ristorante. They really had a set program there and I learned a quite bit. I had the opportunity to spend a month in Parma, Italy in this little town called Colorno with a family that were 9th generation salumists. They had literally been making salumi there for hundreds of years.
Wow. I bet a number of Chefs that would take that opportunity in a heartbeat.
It was an eye opening experience. I had the opportunity to work with masters and to see their techniques first-hand. Their whole process from start to finish was set to be a naturally cured product. They used no nitrates, no starter cultures; just using salt, wine, honey – it was pretty raw and everything occurred naturally in the environment.
When I came back to New York and started to work at Lincoln with Chef Benno I began dabbling again and making some simpler salumi like spalla cotto, coppa and lardo. From there, my wife and I wanted to leave NY and start a future and family together. So we moved here and I met up with Matt Dillon and landed a job at Sitka and Spruce. He gave us free rein to do what we wanted to do and I then went to Bar Sajor where he asked me to be Chef de Cuisine there. Then I could do everything I wanted to do again.
Tell me about the concept behind Salare
Well, going back to the family I worked with in Italy; they actually named this restaurant without knowing it. Salare means to salt or season. When I was there we were doing coppas and the butcher kept saying, “salare, salare!” I had no idea what he was talking about. So he showed me how to season the meat and to rub it more and more.
The symbols on the wall of the restaurant are from a corzetti stamp that they gave me. It influenced me in choosing the direction I wanted to go in. That said, I didn’t want to have an Italian restaurant or a Southern restaurant or a French restaurant. I just wanted to be a really good ‘American restaurant’ which really represents a smorgasbord of everything.
I’m influenced by French and Italian and my Southern background but I didn’t want to be ‘the Italian place in Ravenna’. When I was growing up we didn’t waste much because we didn’t have much. Even from a deeper historical standpoint – they didn’t have much and learned how to use off cuts and how to make a really good meal. My dad’s side of the family was most influential from a food perspective. They brought a lot of that Southern history into our dining experience on a weekly basis. Dad would send me to the store to get headcheese and I hated it at the time. It was all mushy and you’d wipe it on a cracker or something. But the stuff I didn’t like at that point in my life was what I really like now!
I love Italian preserving methods and their ‘no waste’ methodology. That style, the thoughtfulness about animals – I’m using that in my cuisine. That’s what I want people to think about when they come here. I’m utilizing what is available. It hurts me personally to see a liver or a kidney go down the drain or in the trash. Sometimes chefs are scared that they don’t know what to do with it or that their clientele won’t like it. So they toss it vs. getting creative.
Why did you decide to open a ‘neighborhood’ restaurant and not something splashy downtown?
I wanted something that was neighborhood friendly and still on the high-end from a food standpoint but without being pretentious. I also wanted something neighbors could call home – their restaurant in a way. I wanted a flagship for the neighborhood and a place that my son could come in and run around where no one would be upset.
If you have kids you can bring them here – I’m here for families and wanted a place that wasn’t so competitive and a bit different. It’s kind of like my hastag – #bedifferent. This area is a challenge just like anywhere. But I wanted something that the neighborhood could enjoy and people would be proud of. It’s all about the neighborhood support and if we do alright there will be many more places to come in to eat at.
What are some of your favorite cured meat preparations?
Coppa by far. I make tons of coppa because of the ease of it. I use various flavorings from straight salt and pepper, I love using Aleppo pepper, and smoked paprika. I also use cracked fennel. It’s an easy starter cured meat.
I do ‘big boy’ pancettas – aged 12 months and rolled. I stay away from prosciutto just because of the size and time required. I do a lot of lardo – real simple with cracked black pepper and salt and aged from 6-12 months. I salt it just like pancetta for 5 days, then hang with salt and give it a brush after 6 months. I still get a pure white product.
Where do you get your pork?
From various local farms. One of the places I work with is Nature’s Last Stand out in Carnation, WA. Matt introduced me to the farmer there and when we first went to visit he was wrangling these pigs on his own, ‘Wildman-style’. We really wanted to support him and he was a small farmer trying to start a pig farm. So once he started using USDA-approved facilities for slaughter we did.
Do you use any nitrates in your cure?
I don’t use any on whole muscle cures but I have used them in some salami that I’ve made.
Outside of mainstream curing of pork – have you made much charcuterie from other animals?
I’m starting a goat this week and will be making salumi and doing a prosciutto out of the leg. I’ve definitely done lamb pancettas but I haven’t dabbled much in venison as I don’t have a great source for it. I’ll cure anything and everything.
What chefs have inspired you?
Definitely Thomas Keller. I went there for a reason. He’s a very influential chef and his military style and precision can be seen in how he runs the kitchen. Also Chef Jonathan Benno – he was like a father outside of the kitchen. He loved you, was an awesome cook and he worked at the French Laundry and really understands the whole sense of urgency and has the same cooking style as I do. When he opened up Lincoln I went to follow him to continue learning.
My grandmother and mother were chefs in my eyes and they really taught me a lot. I’m not really a star chef chaser. I respect them but I want to do what I want to. I beat my own drum and the people that influence me are people I work with – not those I read about in a magazine.
Where do you like to go out to eat?
I really like Delancey for pizza. I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes down to eating . I’ll do a burger at Red Mill. When I do go out it’s generally pretty fancy. Maybe Mamnoon – I’ve been there more than any other place in the city.
What’s your guilty pleasure with food?
The burger. By far. I get my fix and the full food pyramid right there. Definitely the burger. I’m a fiend for the burger.
Who are the Top Chefs in Seattle?
Well, that depends on the definition of ‘Top Chef’. Is it the kids cooking in the kitchen or the guys who have several restaurants already? I think the young up-and-comers are some of the top chefs in the city. They are in their day in and day out. You got Preston Miller at Bar Sajor putting in hours. Nick Coffey from Sitka and Spruce, Garrett Melkonian at Mamnoon, and Eli Dahlin at Damn the Weather. Those are the guys who will be the Top Chefs in the future.
There are the guys making a name for the scene that have been around for a while but the people making the next step up could be considered the top chefs. My good friend Chris Weber at The Herbfarm and you don’t hear much about him because it’s out in Woodinville.
Final question – What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Oh gosh. Being that I usually go to watch everyone else I don’t really have one. But when I have done karaoke – the song is called “I Be Strokin’” – by Clarence Carter. It’s more of a laughing funny song about this guy having sex with his girl. That would be it.
*Portions of this story originally appeared in Eater Seattle
** Title photo by Nathan Ma Photography