Chef Josh Boutwood ignites the palate at The Test Kitchen
MANILA, Philippines – To say that Josh Boutwood is the chef of the moment is almost like stating the obvious. After making waves at the last Madrid Fusion in April, Boutwood, who is executive chef at the Bistro Group, has opened a private dining restaurant called The Test Kitchen.
Tucked away in the small Makati neighborhood of San Antonio Village, The Test Kitchen is, in a way, Boutwood’s laboratory, where he serves menus custom-made for each group of diners that books a table at the reservations-only place.
While diners have no idea what the menu will be until the food is actually served, one thing they can be sure of is that all the dishes will be as exciting as they are comforting – combining flavors and textures that are both unusual and familiar.
Boutwood recently created a 6-course meal called Igniting the Palate, in partnership with San Miguel’s Great Food Solutions, of which he was recently named brand ambassador. The menu included dishes with vague names like “Coop,” “Surf & Earth,” “Pasture,” and “Sweet” – which may come across as slightly pretentious, though the entire experience of tasting the dishes more than makes up for it.
Just imagine: a juicy chunk of chicken served with a creamy carrot puree and popcorn, tender porkloin topped with a chorizo bilbao puree and green peas, decadent avocado ice cream topped off with meringue and pretty pink flowers – and that’s just the half of it.
And while he yields such culinary creations at The Test Kitchen, his personal kitchen is an entirely different story. There, Boutwood likes to keep it simple, like many great chefs do. His kitchen staples are pretty basic: salt, pasta, butter, milk, oils, and the requisite meats (beef, chicken, pork).
“We are simple people at home, we don’t make a fuss of what we eat, really. We eat as a family as much as possible – basically on Sundays,” he shared. “Those are cherished moments. We don’t make a fuss about it. We’d rather place more attention on ourselves as a family versus what we cook.”
Ironically, Boutwood laughingly shares that he hardly gets invited to dinners at other people’s places, because they feel pressured to impress him when he comes over.
“I get messages from my wife saying ‘Oh, me and the kids are going to so-and-so’s house…they don’t want to have you over because you might criticize’ and the thing is I don’t criticize. It’s quite sad because I’ve missed out on all these lovely events that my family goes to,” he said.
At any rate, Boutwood is glad to be in the thick of Manila’s food industry at the moment.
“So much has changed since I arrived. It’s exploded. The restaurant scene and the culinary talent has just multiplied tenfold in the 5 years that I’ve been in Manila,” he said.
“I think what’s great about the industry right now is that everyone’s working together and it’s a very rare thing to see and to witness…The entire industry is cohesive. It’s an interesting time to be in this industry.”
What’s next for Boutwood? A new restaurant in BGC called Savage is currently in the works and is set to open in December – and according to him, it will be completely different from The Test Kitchen.
“I don’t want to replicate restaurants, so each restaurant will be a separate identity to the other, almost an alter ego.”
Boutwood chose to keep mum about the new restaurant, saving all the juicy details for a future unveiling – though the details he did reveal are enough to pique any foodie’s curiousity.
“It’s going to be interactive, I’ll say that,” he said. “One more thing, the food is pre-industrial, so there’s no electric or gas that will be used in the process…we want to go…almost primitive.”
The concept, he shared, is simply about him wanting to challenge himself further. “I was given the option to open another restaurant and it’s so easy for a cook or a chef to say ‘okay, let’s make another branch.’ I’m somebody who likes to get challenged constantly – everyday – so we developed this concept which would be the complete opposite to [The Test Kitchen]” – Rappler.com