Edouardo Jordan, chef-owner of Salare and JuneBaby in Seattle, uses storytelling through food to explore his roots.
• Chef/owner of Salare, a neighborhood restaurant in Seattle
• Chef/owner of JuneBaby, a restaurant exploring Southern ingredients and food traditions
• A Food & Wine Best New Chef 2016
• Eater Seattle’s Chef of the Year 2015
• Worked at Per Se and Lincoln in New York; The French Laundry in Yountville, California; Bar Sajor and Sitka & Spruce in Seattle; and The Herbfarm in Woodinville, Washington
• Mentors include Jonathan Benno of Lincoln Ristorante
• Graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Orlando, Florida.
Finding His Voice and Making It Sing
Talk to Eduoardo Jordan about cooking for any length of time, and likely the phrase “my culinary journey” will come up more than once. It’s one that’s taken him around the world, and not always in a physical sense. Jordan journeys through history, always on the lookout for ingredients and preparations that spark his imagination and hold a cultural significance.
Jordan’s culinary journey is also one of identity. His cooking unites the French and Italian influences from his professional experience with his personal experience as an African-American.
The native of St. Petersburg, Florida, grew up in the kitchen, watching and helping his relatives. “Cooking with my family was fundamental,” he says. “My grandmother used to cater from her house, cooking elaborate meals for her church and her community.”
After earning degrees in sports management and business administration, Jordan realized his heart was elsewhere. Before making food his career, he had a website where he’d write about his experiences dining out. “My website was all about food, being a critic. I realized that a lot of the time I was cooking better food at home than I was getting at restaurants.”
Jordan set his sights high and landed an apprenticeship at The French Laundry after much persistence. “I wanted to learn from the best,” he says. After The French Laundry, Jordan worked at Thomas Keller’s New York restaurant Per Se under chef Jonathan Benno. He cites Benno as an inspiration, particularly for the firm but respectful way he interacts with his staff. “I look up to him not just as a chef, but as a human.”
After working in Seattle for a number of years, Jordan knew he didn’t want to do “the same old Seattle food” on a trendy block when the time was right to open a restaurant of his own. “Salare is in a quiet, family neighborhood. I felt it had a need for quality restaurants. People told me ‘don’t open a restaurant there,’ but it started feeling good to me. I’m a risk taker. I like challenges.”
Salare opened in 2015 to accolades. Its name comes from the Latin term for salting meat to preserve it, and preservation is a big player in Jordan’s arsenal. The restaurant serves house-cured meats, a skill Jordan honed while staying with a family in Parma that’s been making salumi for hundreds of years. But the love of preserving goes back further, starting at home. “My family pickled everything.”
Jordan describes JuneBaby—his newest venture, just a few blocks from Salare—as “a culinary historical journey through the South. I kind of ran away from the South, thinking all Southern food was heavy, that it couldn’t be fine dining. I got brainwashed, essentially. But if I cook the food that’s important to me, it’ll be more true than trying to cook someone else’s cuisine.”
“I’ve been cooking professionally for 11 years now,” Jordan continues. “I’m going to let my cooking speak loudly about who I am and what I do.” That cooking unites French and Italian influences with African spices like grains of paradise and Southern ingredients like sorghum syrup. He laces sweet tea with anise hyssop. He roasts winter squash and uses the seeds in the accompanying West African-style egusi sauce instead of the melon seeds traditionally used. “There’s no waste in my restaurant,” says Jordan. “I like to think we go from the ground to the table.”
Years of work are coming together for Jordan: He has a young son, two restaurants, and increasing recognition in the culinary world. What’s next? Jordan’s confidence and curiosity are such that the question is immaterial. “The culinary world is, for me, always a learning process.”