The Best Chef in Seattle You've Never Heard Of
Edouardo Jordan, Chef de Cuisine, Bar Sajor
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Bar Sajor is Matt Dillon's gorgeous and great new restaurant in Pioneer Square, but Matt Dillon also runs the (gorgeous, great) Corson Building and (ditto) Sitka & Spruce, and he is only one human. At Bar Sajor, Edouardo Jordan is Dillon's right-hand man—his co-conspirator de cuisine, Dillon says.
Edouardo would like you to know that he was a Florida Gator (meaning he attended the University of Florida); he then went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Tampa. His first restaurant job was at a Bennigan's, as a server. From there, his career could be fairly described as meteoric, at least for the restaurant business, including a stint at Mise en Place in Tampa, where Marty Blitz was his first mentor; an extended stage at the French Laundry, where Mark Bodinet, now the chef at Copperleaf near Sea-Tac, took him under his wing; time at the Herbfarm, where he first met Matt Dillon; then Per Se and Lincoln in New York; and back to Seattle to work with Dillon at Sitka & Spruce and, now, Bar Sajor.
If none of that means anything to you, the caliber of cooking Edouardo does at Bar Sajor will—you do not get much more up-and-coming in the world of food than this. He would want Eddie Murphy to play him in a movie, or Wesley Snipes—he says he kind of looks like Wesley Snipes, and his wife agrees.
I found an article from the St. Petersburg Times from 2006 about you, and it says, "At the French Laundry, Jordan learned he was 'too slow, nowhere near perfect, and not good enough.'"
How much progress do you think you've made since then?
Well, I think I've made a major progression in my life as a cook, as a chef... coming into that atmosphere, it's the highest caliber of food—the highest caliber of restaurant industry that you can possibly be in—and so the things you do are gonna be critiqued: how fast you move, how you do something, how you sweep, is gonna be critiqued.
That sounds terrifying.
Yeah, it is terrifying. You never feel like you can do anything right, and so you're always on your toes, so it's very frustrating. But once you graduate from that system, and you understand the purpose of them being so militant toward you, you kinda understand and appreciate it, and you realize, "I wasn't that slow. I was just trying to learn a system." You're able to move and do things in a quicker manner, 'cause you're like, "I get it now."
What kind of boss is Matt Dillon?
He's very free-flowing—it's just kind of "let the food speak for itself." He's open to us about his philosophy, like "keep it simple, make it fresh, don't overthink it." That's the same mentality that I share, that's why we kinda clicked. It's just don't mess up a good ingredient.
What's your worst-ever kitchen disaster?
Oh Jesus!... At the Herbfarm was one that—at the Herbfarm, everyone eats all at one time, so it's like a pan of 80 duck confit streusels, and I grabbed the pan without realizing it was totally hot, and I dropped 80 streusels on the ground.
What did you do?
We had to rethink that dish with like five minutes to go. Luckily, we had duck confit in the fridge, so we just had confit on the plate with, I think, duck breast. We improvised, but that was one disaster I will never forget.
That sounds horrible.
When you see [former Herbfarm, now Poppy chef] Jerry Traunfeld giving you that evil eye, it's like [gasps, laughter].
What is your secret shame food?
I'm a burger freak. I love burgers. I'll eat a cheap burger, I'll eat an expensive burger, ground meat, man! Just put it on a bun! I won't technically go to a fast-food burger place anymore, but I used to... actually, back in the day, my favorite, and—don't say I still eat it, please, 'cause I don't—was Wendy's.
Did you like the square shape of the Wendy's burger?
No, y'know, back in the day, they used to be pretty darn fresh. They tasted fresh, the fries were good, it was hot, compared to the microwaved McDonald's or whatever they did to their burgers. But they went downhill...
They have that weird milkshake there... the Frosty?
Yeah, yeah, the Frosty! Yeah.
You like the Frosty?
Uh... no. I don't like powdered ice cream.
Do you have any recurring dreams that are weird that you'd like to share?
Yeah... I don't think my wife wants me to share it, though!
Do you have a hangover cure you'd like to share?
Oh, it's not a hangover cure, it's a pre-hangover cure. It's you drink one cup, and drink one cup of water. It's a rotation.
But, um, don't you have to go to the bathroom a lot then?
Well, that's part of the process! You've got to get it out of you. It slows you down, and you're able to restock again, and last longer than everyone. They say you're the biggest lush in the world, but you're like, "I'm good."
Any thoughts on Paula Deen?
It's sad. I thought she was a great personality for the food industry, just helping people learn about food and get excited about food, especially being from the South—bringing recognition to the South... The reality is that a lot of Southerners think that way still. It still happens. It kinda brings to light that society isn't perfect yet.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Oooh... Snoop Dogg, Doggy-style. And other than that, probably Mariah Carey. Mariah Carey from back in the day.
Awww, that's romantic! Sweet.
Two sides of me. I'm a Gemini, so...
What restaurants or bars in Seattle do you like to go to?
We tend to end up at taco night at Sitka & Spruce a little more than we should—it's just, it's home for me. I end up at Montana more than I should... Still Liquor. Canon. Dreamgirls.
What is your death-bed meal?
Probably my mom's quiche. It was made with love—it's just one of those things... I came home from school, and I was able to be happy when mom had a quiche that's sittin' there waiting on me for afternoon snack, or waking up in the morning with orange juice and her quiche is hot from the oven. I kinda compare everyone else's quiche to my mom's, whenever I have it or whenever I make it.
What's the weirdest order you've ever gotten?
Ordering a seafood pasta, like calamari and shrimp and a puttanesca sauce, with anchovies and garlic—and so the person wanted it, but they didn't want any garlic, they didn't want any anchovies, they didn't want the olives... they basically made their own dish. We get that all the time. Or when a guest comes in and they just tell us what they want without even looking at the menu.
You guys love that, don't you?
Oh, it's a great feeling to know they're coming into our restaurant and they don't even appreciate what we're thinking about!
What's the best thing on the menu at Bar Sajor right now?
Being that our menu changes daily, it's hard to pin down one thing, but our Stokesberry chicken is pretty damn awesome. It's quality chicken. One of my favorite things right now personally is lobster mushrooms—they've come into season—we're doing it with sliced tomatoes, and the basil, and the broth from the lobster mushrooms, and it's a real simple dish, but it's like heaven: perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked. Pretty exciting, for me.