The chefs at Chop House in Radisson Blu have found a piece of technology to suit their grilling needs and they aren’t planning on turning their backs on it any time soon.
When Jeff Gitonga, Chef de Cuisine at Radisson Blu, begins to describe the Josper Grill, there is no getting a word in edgeways. The pride of his kitchen, he waxes poetic about the grill that is a fixture of the best restaurants. “This machine,” he enthuses, “is magic.”
Developed in 1970 by Spaniards Josep Armangue and Pere Juli, the Josper grill has seen a steady rise in exposure over the last decade or so. This, according to Radisson’s executive chef Wissem Abdellatif, is because this machine can do pretty much anything.
We are sitting in the immaculately turned out Chop House restaurant in the east wing of the hotel, the open kitchen, a hive of activity. Some guests get so blown away that they come to the kitchen counter just to have a look at the grill that gave them the wonderful food they just had. It is a well appointed kitchen, but Chef Gitonga says he pushed hard for the grill to take them to the next level.
The contraption itself is an unassuming thing, approximately a metre cubed. It is the quality and the consistency of its output that really elevates it to a class of its own. I watch as they toss a New York strip into the grill. No fancy rubs or marinades, just a sprinkling of salt and pepper. “The grill does not use electricity or gas, just charcoal. It is efficient and clean,” says Gitonga. “The way it works is by having a regulator that controls the vents that move air into and out of the machine, which gives us great temperature control.”
I watch as Chef Gitonga leaves a strip of beef to sizzle for seven minutes on the fire; the cut of meat he proceeds to extract is a thing of beauty. Before plating it he lets it rest for a few minutes, which, explains Chef Abdellatif, is an important step as it gives the meat a softer texture. The more it rests, he says, the softer it becomes. The outside of the strip is charred to perfection, the inside is cooked but not overdone, pink, juicy and utterly delicious. “The intense heat in the grill (it can go up to 500 degrees Celsius) cooks the meat through without burning it.”
Chop House sources its beef from The Well Hung Butcher, who in turn raises Borana cows on the Borana Wildlife Conservancy. The beef is dry aged for 21 one days before being broken down into the different parts. Perfectly marbled meat gives you a steak that is complete, juicy and delicious. The final dish, however, is greater than the sum of its parts. While the Josper can make anyone look like they have been master chefs for years (at least on the grill) there is still an art to making the perfect steak. Timing, resting, seasoning- these are all elements of a good steak.
This is a complicated bit of kit, made from specially designed metal alloys and complicated, patented designs for its air flow systems. A front opening grill of this nature, then, comes at a cost. The list price for this marvel of cooking with fire running you upward of Kshs 1,000,000. Small price to pay, according to Gitonga. “Efficient, eco-friendly, consistent, giving your food flavour and character, there is nothing about the Josper that is superfluous.” Chef Abdellatif nods sagely, having the last word. “This grill is perfect.” The empty plate in front of me that once had a thick slab of juicy medium done steak on it serves as evidence of this statement.