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Why Travel? Jordan Sclare Shares His Trip to Peru

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As part of its Why Travel? video series, Transat is asking people from all walks of life to tell us why travel has changed them. Was it love? Curiosity? A sense of adventure? Family heritage? A job? An unexpected turn of events? This series of portraits conveys an ideology of humanism and openness to the world through stories that enrich the “how” and “why” of each journey.

Because travel, in one way or another, undeniably moves us.

Today, Jordan Sclare, group executive chef at Chotto Matte restaurant in Toronto, shares his story.

Taste first, always

Jordan Sclare embarked on his first culinary venture at the age of 14, when he participated in a two-week internship organized by his school. Although his duties were limited to making egg sandwiches, the experience was pivotal, inspiring him to pursue a career in the culinary arts. At the age of 16, he began a four-year apprenticeship at the prestigious 5-star Savoy Hotel in London. He went on to work in several world-renowned restaurants around the globe and was also chosen by Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani to cater on his private yacht.

But ultimately, prestige isn’t what he’s after.

“Although I do like cutlery and chopsticks, my favourite way to eat street food is to really get in there! I like to find a bustling market and eat with my hands, licking my fingers, with sauce dripping along my arms. At the end of the day, it’s not the presentation or the process you remember the most. Much like travel actually – it’s not always about how you get there, it’s about the experience.”

Jordan has been working in Michelin-starred restaurants for a long, long time. He’s been in those kitchens. Of course, he agrees that it was essential that he learn the discipline of his art, the science behind cooking, the basics of presentation. In retrospect, he sees things differently.

“As I’ve grown, what’s most important to me is taste. A Michelin star is not, by far and by any means, the most important thing to me when it comes to creating and serving food. In the end, I’d rather have a full restaurant with people enjoying themselves, where the food is phenomenal, and where word of mouth does its work. That’s exactly what’s been happening at Chotto Matte.”

But what exactly is Chotto Matte?

Peru at heart

Have you ever heard of Nikkei cuisine? According to Jordan, it’s the evolution of Peruvian food by the Japanese, who settled in large groups in South America about 130 years ago and started cooking with local ingredients. As it turned out, the Japanese thought they were cooking Peruvian food, and the Peruvians thought it was Japanese food. That’s how the fusion of Nikkei cuisine was born!

This melding of flavors and techniques fascinated Jordan and underscored the power of culinary evolution and cross-cultural exchange.

His culinary background, enriched by years of working in Japanese restaurants and a solid understanding of Japanese cuisine, found its missing piece in Peru. “I find it difficult to put into words the full extent of my transformation after my first trip to Peru. It put a stamp of authenticity on all the recipes we’d developed for Chotto Matte,” he says.

“Our menu wasn’t fully ready until we came down here to touch, look, taste, and smell those dishes. It was a dream come true for me, learning from the masters. The people we met didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Spanish, but it didn’t matter. We talked in the language of food.”

Cooking with locals, learning from generations of tradition, and harvesting ingredients firsthand, in the Andes or in the jungle, has brought an unparalleled depth to his practice, emphasizing that authenticity cannot be captured through secondhand knowledge. “If you haven’t been there and actually gone through their cuisine with them, you can’t accurately translate the spirit,” he says.

“For me, it was going into the jungle, getting my hands dirty, pulling the herbs out of the ground, learning to cook these ingredients that I harvested myself with people who’ve been doing it through generations… it’s simply like nothing else.”

Why travel? For the transformation

Jordan was drawn to the world of food from a young age, with his interest sparking at just 7. These early experiences are some of his most cherished memories, and he finds joy in seeing the same excitement in his own children as they travel together.

Are travel and food inextricably linked? For Jordan Sclare, it is.

“Sure, you can look at videos and read books. But you can’t taste the book. You certainly can’t taste the video. You have to go out there and experience it first-hand. No matter where you are in the world, going to where you want to go is the truly the only way to know what it’s really like.”

In fact, Peru was not on his bucket list until much later in life. And yet, venturing out of his comfort zone to places he never imagined has opened up immense possibilities for him.

Whenever he travels, the chef prefers the authentic, hands-on experience of eating at the local market and immersing himself in the passionate pursuit of flavors rather than fine dining. Jordan’s story underscores the transformative power of travel and cultural exploration on a chef’s creativity and approach to food.

In fact, he believes that experiencing local cuisine is the only way to truly understand and appreciate the nuances of a culture’s food traditions. Walking into someone’s home or local restaurant is simply a privileged experience, if you ask Jordan Sclare.

“Travel brings people together, as we all sit down and have a wonderful meal. You may not know the person sitting next to you but you are sharing a common experience. In that sense, food unquestionably is a universal language.”

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

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