It’s the intimate 10 seat triptych that shine’s light to Chef Josh Boutwood’s personal experiences and culinary training. Each venue captures a distinct idea or characteristic of his personality. The menu here is designed with minimal chic in a monochromatic palette with balances of grey. 3 venues. 3 colours. A central theme that seems to emerge across his culinary expressions.
“I have a deep connection with the number three. It is connection that fuels my fascination with triangles. When creating a dish, I imagine a blueprint in the form of a triangle. In some instances, the points of this triangle represent ingredients: a starch, a protein or a vegetable. Sometimes, the points could be flavors such as salt, bitter and sweet. The points could even signify textures like soft, chew and crunch. My challenge is trying to find the equilibrium within a dish, a sense of balance between each point of the triangle. The process can be brutal in its simplicity but it is always elegant in its symmetry.” says Chef Josh Boutwood.
Unlike our visit to the more laid back nuances of Savage , there’s an intimacy with the food creator that adds to the diner’s experience with all seats focalised on the kitchen. His drive to innovate and define his unique style, the result of a catalystic encounter during a stint in Sweden when criticised for his lack of experience in the kitchen.
What’s the best lesson you’ve picked up from abroad that you’ve always tried to apply to every one of your kitchens?
The best lesson I’ve learned is how to work in a silent kitchen. It is amazing how much more you can achieve so with a little peace and quiet when you cook.
What’s your secret for juggling the workload at all your different restaurants?
The secret is simple, have the best people around you.
All of your restaurants are very different from each other. But with you heading up the kitchens, what do you think is common to all of them?
I’ve created restaurants that contrast each other. There should not be a common factor between them. But ultimately, I would like to think that guests can see me in all the dishes that come out of our kitchen.
In what direction do you want to steer Filipino cuisine?
With so much of our cuisine rooted in cultural influences, I would like to see more people pushing the boundaries of traditional cuisine and like us, promote our vast selections of local ingredients.
What do you do when you’re not cooking in the kitchen?
I’ve learned to appreciate the wonders of a good night’s sleep. I also enjoy travelling and taking photographs.
You were quoted as saying that a lot of inspiration from your cooking comes from art. How do the visual arts help inform what and how you cook?
To appreciate art, you have to understand the medium. In the case of cooking, the media are the ingredients. For example, there are thousands of ways to prepare an apple. But it’s how you prepare that apple that defines the diner’s appreciation for it
At Helm, how has the experience of cooking changed for you, now that you’re doing it right in front of the diners?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking in front of guests. Having your diners present adds an interesting challenge to the mix. Ensuring that each movement and action are well-thought out goes along way to making guests feel comfortable.
What comes first in your creative process in Helm: the dish or the ingredient? The ingredients always come first. The process is a close second.
What’s the biggest adventure you’ve ever been on while sourcing new ingredients for Helm?
I remember trekking through rural mountains to meet uplands farmers growing amazing produce and grains.
Tell us about one surprising ingredient you’ve worked on recently.
I’m starting to enjoy working with offal. Finding ways and processes to make them more interesting and guest- friendly.
What do you hope your staff and your crew will pick up from the way you do your work?
Less is more. Being quiet is louder than shouting and to always look on the brighter side.
What’s the one food city you keep traveling to over and over again?
I seem to frequent Singapore more than any other country. Recently, I’ve been going to Bangkok a lot lately. And the city is starting to grow on me.
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