SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Born of Chef Jordan Keao’s upbringing on the Big Island of Hawai’i, the ‘āina concept is a true reflection Keao’s heritage and a homage to his roots. Keao’s origin story deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture, flavors, and customs, is the backbone of his cooking and the cornerstone of the inspiration for ‘āina. Despite this undeniable tie, Keao also spent time living in drastically different locales – such as Boston, San Diego and now San Francisco – adding dimension to his experience, and developing a skill set that has informed the deeply personal cuisine he will produce at ‘āina.
With an instinctual tie to the culinary arts, Chef knew at an early age that he wanted to pursue a professional career in the kitchen. “Some of my first memories are of being in the kitchen in Hawai’i baking cookies with my Grandmother,” Keao says. “Cooking in a lot of ways is a method of storytelling, and for me I have found that it’s the most natural way to relay some of the vivid memories of my childhood.”
At 18 he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America – San Diego while at the same time working the kitchen at Roy’s. A stint at other San Diego restaurants followed.
2009 marked a move to the Bay Area, where he undertook conception and opening 4 sushi restaurants, before taking a position at the lauded and Michelin-starred La Folie. At La Folie he worked directly alongside mentor Chef Roland Passot developing a mastery of both classic and French cooking techniques – skills that would later play into his own signature style of Modern Hawaiian cooking.
After two years in the kitchen at La Folie, Keao crossed over to the corporate world, joining the Google team as a part of Bon Appetit in 2011. In that capacity he oversaw the Hangout Café on the Google campus and supervised the production of breakfast for 400, and lunch for 600 Google employees every day.
Working within the parameters of a corporate kitchen Keao developed new dishes, methods, flavor profiles and an understanding of high volume menu development.
From Google, Keao continued in the corporate realm as Kitchen Manager at leading technology company Airbnb. There he worked to build out their commercial kitchens, train and upgrade staff and ensure consistency and quality of their food offerings. It was during his time at Airbnb that Keao launched ‘āina brunch as a bi-weekly popup in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. After months of overwhelming demand Keao, his wife Cheryl Liew, and friend and former La Folie colleague Jason Alonzo, started thinking seriously about next steps for ‘āina. And so in 2015 a dream was realized and Aina found it’s home in San Francisco’s Dogpatch. The pop-up was permanent and diners came from near and afar for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
We met at Aina recently for our Foodie Chap chat. As the kitchen cranked out orders at the start of a busy lunch service Chef Jordan whipped up his popular Kulua Pork Belly recipe with asparagus & rice. We talked, he cooked, I ate.
Enjoy the conversation and a big MAHALO to Chef Jordan and team for bringing thoughtful, tasty cuisine from the “Aloha State” to the 415 – San Francisco.
Kalua Pork Belly (Spring 2017)
- Score Skin and Season with Garlic, Shallot, Salt, Sugar, Thyme and Savory.
- Place into 600 Hotel Pans and let season for 2 days.
- Cut Pork Belly into thirds and place onto smoking racks, skin side down. From the moment the smoke stars set a timer for 3 hours and continuously feed soaked wood chips to maintain a constant medium thick smoke.
- Once pork belly has a golden color and has a good smoke flavor take out of smoker.
- Wrap the pork belly in one layer of banana leaf, Parchment and foil.
- Place into a metal 200 pan.
- Cook in the rational oven at 185 dry and 25% moisture
- Take out of oven and let rest for 45mins at room temp.
- Drain the liquid, reserve and press the pork belly in the walkin.
- Once pork belly is cold, portion into 2 oz pieces.
Steamed Short grain rice:
- Wash rice three times until water runs clear.
- Cooked with filtered water, one to one ratio.
- Let rest for 15 mins for a total of 50 mins.
- Fluff rice on top and place into the rice warmer and fluff the bottom of the rice.
- Cover with wet serviet.
Zuckerman Farms Asparagus:
- Peel the asparagus to remove the stringy fibers.
- Season with oil, salt and pepper. Grill until al dente. Spray with Yuzu Juice.
Green Garlic Puree:
- Green Garlic puree: Blanched Spinach and Green Garlic.
- Puree Green Garlic, Spinach, White Shoyu, Confit Garlic, Xanthan gum. Puree until smooth strain.
Kimchi: Yield 20#
- 1 Q – Gochugaru
- ¾ Q – Garlic
- ¾ Q – Ginger, Peeled
- 3/4Q – Rice Wine Vinegar
- 1 C – Honey
- #30 – 12 heads Cabbage, Napa
- 5% – Salt by weight of cabbage
- Cut Cabbage into quarters lengthwise.
- Salt the cabbage for 3 hours.
- Wash Cabbage and Drain, squeeze out excess water.
- Puree Gochugaru, Rice wine vinegar, Garlic, Honey, Ginger, Garlic and Honey.
- Mix Cabbage with paste and weight down if needed.
- Let sit for 2 days before using.
Chicharones: Fried Pork Skin
- Clean off all the fat and braise in water, vinegar and salt.
- Dehydrate until dry. Fry at 400 degrees until it puffs up.
- Season with togarashi, Salt, citric acid, lemon, lime and orange zest.
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