We enter the back of the long hallway. A haze of smoke hangs about the air, although in the upper reaches of the space. In front of us is a rather large smoker in which lie a row of fish currently in the cold smoke process. They’ve been in there for a few hours, we’re told, and, in a couple of hours, will be sent out to customers to be enjoyed on their own, or accompanied by sauce or other ingredients.
Smoked meat, the mainstay of U.S. cuisine in general, and Texan cuisine in particular, is starting to come into its own in Jakarta, but it has taken its time. Werner Jayson, a German-American long time resident of the capital has certainly helped introduce our taste buds to this decidedly Southern classic.
“You don’t need to be a chef to know how to smoke,” the gregarious personality tells me as we settle into his work space— part meat shop, part kitchen and mostly smoke house—in Cilandak. Here he advises clients on the best cuts of meat, and generously hands out samples for the uninitiated to try. From first hand experience, I must say, the smoked meat here is excellent. That deep, wood-smoked aroma, the complexity of the house-made BBQ sauce, and that resultant bolt of satisfaction having eaten some very good quality meat. It’s all there.
Jayson immigrated to New York from Germany at 13. Following a brief return to his native country where he worked as a chef apprentice for a while, he soon found himself specialising in soups and sauces as part of private events that were catered by an exclusive catering house on Long Island, New York.
As we nurse mugs of coffee and commiserate over the tragic passing of celebrated Chef Anthony Bourdain, Jayson reminisces about the early years of his career. “It’s a tough life,” he recalls, “It’s not what people think it is,” he notes, remembering times when he would return home crying, wondering if this was the field for him. But he persisted and, a few years later, during an event, told his boss at the time that he wanted to attend hotel school. “It gets in your blood,” he says.
Fortunately for Jayson, his boss not only agreed but also sponsored his education. He attended Florida International University where he earned a degree in hotel management and soon after opened his own catering business. Later he joined the Dallas, Texas-based Club Corp one of the largest operators of private golf clubs, country clubs and athletic clubs including Jakarta’s Mercantile Athletic Club.
Travelling the world in his management role, he never strayed far from the kitchen. Returning to Texas for eight years, he developed a new skill, that resolutely Texan passion— smoking and grilling meat. And it wasn’t just any ordinary backyard BBQ technique. While in Austin, he spent time with Aaron Franklin, now widely regarded as one of the world’s top smokers.
Leaving Texas, he eventually landed in Asia where he has been based for over 20 years. Developing golf clubs in China (where he also spent plenty of time developing the kitchens at the various clubs) he also helped start the club at Lippo Karawaci just outside Jakarta. Retiring in 2015, Jayson has turned to his lifelong love, food, and has dabbled in the industry here quite a bit.
That year, he decided to operate a small business selling good quality meat directly to customers. He began with a small group — friends of his wife. And then his chance encounter with his Texan past caught up with him in Jakarta. A friend from the lone-star state invited him home and mentioned that he hadn’t eaten smoked brisket in years despite storing an old smoker in his home. Jayson set to work and before long the pair were smoking meat every week. He was at it again.
It was an eventful year indeed, one that eventually saw him agree to set up the kitchens—complete with a smoker— at Frank’s Bar and Smokehouse which opened that year.
These days, Jayson is comfortable in his own space. Through internet orders and clients he gains via word of mouth, he markets smoked beef— mostly brisket— imported from the U.S. and Australia, duck breast, chicken breast, meatloaf and salmon (mostly sourced from Norway and Canada).
There are some challenges to working with local wood, however. “In Texas we have mesquite, post oak, etc. Here I have gotten used to working with the local rambuttan and the wet wood. If it’s a nice, sunny day it’s easy. If the weather is overcast then the smoke doesn’t go through the chamber as easily,” he says.
On average it takes around 22 hours to smoke brisket and Jayson engages in a method the industry calls the “Texas cheat” where at 160 F the meat, which is devoid of moisture and can no longer give out heat, is wrapped and the cooking process completed. Several hours into the smoking process, Jayson wraps the meat in foil and returns home. The following morning, when he opens the lid of the smoker, the meat is done—perfectly smoked.
Cold smoking is a process by which more tender meat —such as salmon— are smoked without the heat. This yields a different flavour but also a shorter smoking process.
Jayson also enjoys advising clients on the best cuts to purchase and the different ways to cook them. “I make ‘Tex-Indo’,” he says referring to his smoked brisket nasi goreng, brisket rendang and soto brisket. Added to traditional Indonesian dishes, these long-cooked meats work wonders with their smokey flavours and depth.
He has also partnered with Ann’s Bakehouse & Creamery where American favourites like brownies and key lime pie sit under glass cake stands on the long wooden table. New York style bagels are also on offer. He also prepares New Style Pastrami which is sure to evoke memories of the famed Katz’s Deli in Manhattan.
In addition to his “Just Heat & Eat” smokehouse meals, Jayson’s offers a range of spices, BBQ rubs, BBQ sidedishes, including his famous barbeque sauce, all of which are top notch. He also assists customers design and build their own smoker and teaches them how to use it.
In the words of a client who was leaving the store as I entered that day, “I’m glad I’m not vegetarian”
Jl Terogong 3 No.3A,
Cilandak Barat, Jakarta