Every week we ask a creative, artisan, or musician to share what music gets them going from dawn to dusk. This week, Kilo Kitchen's executive chef Manel Valero curates a list of tunes that energizes his day.
The Barcelonian transplant got his start through an opportunity to pursue his passion for cooking despite being an Arts and Design student. Kudos to his grandmother for instilling this interest in him too. Fast forward, an internship stint brought him to Singapore where he met Kilo's co-founder Joshua Adjodha and the pair hit it off.
Valero assumed the role of Kilo Kitchen's culinary director in 2014 and was responsible for some of the restaurant's signature classic dishes (cue: squid ink rice), as well as opening Kilo Bali and Camp Kilo Charcoal Club. Curiosity for culinary knowledge beckons. Europe was on Valero's agenda and he left in 2016 to acquire invaluable experience at some of the region's top Michelin-starred restaurants including Relæ, Maaemo and Geramium.
Perhaps it's God's plans. Affinity has led the invigorated chef back to Kilo Kitchen in 2018 at its Duxton relocation. As executive chef, Valero applied his renewed perspective into Kilo's brand of modern comfort food through amalgamating cooking techniques of Latin America and Asia.
We caught up with Valero to understand his culinary leanings and favourite go-to ingredients.
ESQ: What excites you the most being in Kilo Kitchen?
Manel Valero: A few things made me happy to be back: To see the same people I was working with back in 2014 to 2016 as well as to meet the new ones. Obviously getting to work in such a beautiful space as well as to see that many of the dishes I put in the menu back then have become classics on Kilo Kitchen’s menu.
ESQ: How do you grasp the varied Asian flavours before melding Latin influences and your cooking techniques to them?
Manel Valero: There is really no correct or exact method to do it. It’s just a mix of intuition as well as trial and error, sometimes even by accident.
ESQ: Name a dish on the menu that best represents Kilo Kitchen. Why?
Manel Valero: If I can say only one, I would go for the squid ink rice. There is something about that dish that everyone loves. I guess the fact that it is the perfect blend of Spanish paella and Indonesian Nasi Goreng. That dish is currently going viral in Jakarta too since Kilo Jakarta opened end of December last year!
ESQ: How do you push boundaries and reinvent yourself in Singapore’s super competitive culinary scene?
Manel Valero: Just keep cooking with an open mind, understanding what’s the direction we want to move towards to, and as well as always being open to new ideas.
ESQ: What local ingredient(s) you can’t live without now and tell us some that would you like to experiment in Kilo Kitchen next?
Manel Valero: There are so many of them. I’ve been in Singapore for 8 years! Currently, we make loads of 'Mala' oil for our burrata dish. It’s not really local but it’s well-known to those who like some good late-night Szechuan food. We definitely need to keep experimenting with our grill. Also while I’m writing this, I’m about to fly to Mexico so am definitely excited about what I’ll be bringing back from this trip!
“In the morning, I play songs that fill my soul in one way or another—music that is part of my past, present & future. Music inspires me and is part of my DNA”
1. ‘Como el Agua'—Camarón de la Isla
"It makes me start the day with a sense of pride and nostalgia from where I come from. Flamenco represents a big part of my roots.”
2. ‘Rangoon nights’—Birmanie-Burma: Traditional Music (Air Mail Music Collection)
“I got to fall in love with Burma because of my wife’s heritage, she was born in Rangoon. We are developing some future concepts in this beautiful country. I like to soak on their arts and culture of any kind of form to seek for inspiration.”
3. 'Promised land'—Dennis Brown
“To me this song represents everyone who’s fighting for their dreams, all the people who leave their homes to get a better life for themselves and their loved ones, it represents the struggle and the hustle but at the same time the hope, when I play this song, it fills me with love & positivity to always keep going”.
4. 'De Aqui no Sales' (Cap.4: Disputa—Rosalía
“It's not just about this song, it’s about the whole album “EL MAL QUERER”. Rosalia has taken the Spanish tradition, art, culture & symbolism, and made the most avant-garde album until today, it’s not pop, it’s not flamenco…and on top of that, made it internationally singing just in Spanish, that is very inspiring to me. It’s funny because back in university I used to talk with her trough messenger about making some music together and now she’s working with Pharrell Williams!!”
5. 'Junglist' (Feat. Peter Bouncer)—Congo Natty & Peter Bouncer
“I’m a junglist myself! Started spending all my money on Jungle and drum & bass vinyl records back when I was 16, I slowly moved into only jungle, I still have them all, I have some treasures on my collection. Congo Natty is one of the originators and this is the anthem!
“During the day I’m always inside the kitchen so normally we would play what my team feels like listening while doing mise en place (preparing food for dinner time).”
1. 'Cheapest Flight'—Prep
“Emir, our chef de partie, is as chill as the groove of this song.”
2. 'I want it that way'—Backstreet Boys
“We are a diverse group of people working together, our head chef Bryan loves Backstreet boys”
3. 'My Heroine'—Silverstein
“Our Junior Sous Chef Charlene is simply a badass!”
4. 'DNA'—Kendrick Lamar
“This is our chef de partie Fendi’s favourite song. Love to see him all hyped up while getting ready for dinner!"
5. 'Nothing Else Matter'—Metallica
“Collin, our part-time chef, is a heavy metal soul. He knows his music…"
“At night I’ll be behind the kitchen stove cooking for our guests, so it’s all about the Kilo vibe. Everything comes together with some fine tunes”.
1. 'Fear not for men'—Fela Kuti
“Because some African beats are always good for your soul.”
2. 'Fu-Gee-La'—The Fugees
“We just have to.”
3. '200 MPH (Feat. Diplo)'—Bad Bunny
“Puerto Rico is in the house!”
4. 'Yègellé Tezeta'—Mulatu Astatke
“Ethiopian jazz is always a good choice, especially if you have it with our grilled fermented potato focaccia dipped in confit garlic and adobo dip.”
5. 'Tropidélico (Occidental)'—The Quantic Soul Orchestra
“To me, this is how Kilo sounds on a busy Friday night. Because you can eat and dance at the same time!”
Enjoyed the tracks? Check out our other ‘Dawn to Dusk’ playlists curated by guest artists each week and follow our Apple Music profile to access our playlist first when it's out.