Dive deep in the journey of Brut’s new executive chef CJ Jalandoni as he tells of his efforts to infuse the restaurant’s new menu with Filipino flavours and fun
Chef CJ Jalandoni has a culinary CV that would make any cook envious. He has trained in Manila and Paris restaurants, mentored under Alain Ducasse, crafted creations in New York and Dubai, and wowed at Macau’s restaurants. CJ describes himself as “a sponge and an empty glass”, eager to learn and adapt to his next challenge.
Leaving the glitzy casinos and restaurants of Macau for Hong Kong in late 2021, CJ took on the role of Chef de Cuisine at fine-casual restaurant Cultivate.
In spring 2023, news arrived of Gavin Chin departing Sai Ying Pun’s leading modern bistro Brut, and CJ found himself in the spotlight. He is now governing the future of Hong Kong’s top wine-focused restaurant-bar.
We caught up with chef CJ for a chat during weekday preparation. We Interviewed Brut’s latest leader about his new culinary direction and how he plans to introduce funky Filipino flavours to Hong Kong.
From your initial conversations with former head chef Gavin Chin and co-partner Camille Glass, what intrigued you most about the Brut project?
As a diner and fan of Brut, I knew my conversations with Camille would allow me the space to craft my own style with the menu and food programme. The fusion style of food at Brut is important to me so that I can inject my own experience into what we serve.
Part of what drew me to Brut was the storytelling. It is clear from the moment you walk in that every bit of the restaurant is geared towards showcasing the unique perspectives in both the food programme and the wines on offer.
Camille has been very intentional in developing a largely “New World” wine list that really speaks to the more progressive wineries and makers of today. In that way, it’s a perfect match for our contemporary menu, which pays respect to old traditions while infusing playful and lesser-known flavours from countries like the Philippines.
How has your global culinary journey influenced your impact on Brut’s new menu?
With my history in Dubai, Paris, and New York, I can bring these experiences together at Brut and showcase my skills. Our new scallop dish on the menu is one of my odes to the Middle Eastern flavours I loved in Dubai, pairing cauliflower with za’atar, tahini, and pomegranate.
There was Japanese influence on my previous menus and a handful of Filipino-inspired dishes on the new menu. I need to adhere to the theme of Brut, but I am also inspired by French and Italian flavours.
Do you classify Brut as a restaurant? How does it play to its strengths as a refined modern bistro with a strong wine collection?
We are a fine-casual restaurant. In Hong Kong, you have to draw a line between whether you want to be more on the fine or casual side. If you’re too casual, you might allow yourselves to be lax with the food or the service standards might get lost along the way.
However, if you lean more towards the fine side of dining, you must serve, cook, and prepare in a certain way and keep it consistent to ensure the guest experience is always enjoyable. It is challenging to maintain this high standard.
Since you joined in May 2023, what’s the dining culture that you want to cultivate at Brut?
Brut is an institution, and we want to keep it that way, without making too many changes that would affect its primary identity. Now, we are seeking to experiment with tableside service to elevate Brut’s standing in Sai Ying Pun, as it is a staple and foundation in the neighbourhood.
What is your outlook for fine-casual restaurants in Hong Kong in the future and what do you think the trends will be?
I dine out to get inspired for creating new items or menus [at Brut]. I like to see who adapts to the local and tourist markets that we have in Hong Kong, whether they are on Little Red Book or Hong Kongers seeking new experiences. For most people in general nowadays, if the food is good, it speaks for itself.
Can we expect more Filipino influences?
With the new menu we launched, we are not highlighting just Filipino dishes per se, but Filipino ingredients and touches in the dishes. For example, the local amadai uses sautéed crab fat in the recipe to add umami to the fish, which we purchased at the local Filipino store.
The hamachi “kilawan” carpaccio is a ceviche dish coming from the Philippines, using calamansi vinegar and coconut oil for a Filipino-style dressing. Equally, our braised short rib dish is inspired by the traditional kare-kare Filipino dish, using peanut sauce and shrimp paste to balance sweet and salty flavours. We actually use Skippy for the sauce [laughs]!
Thanks for chatting with us, CJ!
My pleasure, Rubin!