Dry Aged Steak Guy - Chef Azam Riyard

Jan 10 2024.

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How do our food experts cook and eat? This week, Chef Azam Riyard – more popularly known as the @Dry Aged Steak Guy takes our Q&A! Chef Azam Riyard is the Founder of the Clubhouse Steakhouse in London - the only steak restaurant to dry age halal beef in-house in the UK and he is a self-taught old-Trinitian returning to Sri Lanka for an exclusive kitchen take-over of the London Grill at Cinnamon Grand Colombo.

Your first entry into the hospitality industry started at Cinnamon Hotels and now you are here as a guest chef – how does it feel?
Very nostalgic really, like I’m coming back to base. Back then, Cinnamon was Trans Asia and Oberoi when I was working here and now, I’m returning to this place as a guest chef with a lot of pride. 

What can people look forward to at the London Grill with the exclusive A la Carte menu?
The best steak you’ll ever have. The majority of the menu items are my own recipes which I have currently in my menu back in London at the Clubhouse Steakhouse and we’ve kept a few London Grill favourites as well.  Simple but fantastic flavours where I let the meat speak for itself with a side of French and Mediterranean flavours when it comes to the seafood and sides. It’s food that will make you go ‘wow, that’s the best I’ve had’. 

From the exclusive menu – what’s one item that’s a must-try for anyone?
The Porterhouse Steak, because it has two cuts of meat and Bone in Ribeye because the intermuscular fat in that cut renders so beautifully. 

Do you have a particular memory that you can point to and say ‘That’s what started this all?’
It all boils down to these two beautiful sauces I had in France that they served with the meat. It was so phenomenal; it changed the way I looked at meat and really made me passionate about it. 

How did you learn to dry-age steak? 
I’m a self-taught chef, everything I know I learnt it all by myself with a lot of trial and error. I do a lot of reading – Peter Kuruwita’s book ‘Serendib’ is a particular favourite of mine. 

What makes dry-aged steak so special?
Dry ageing beef makes the flavour richer and the quality is better. Because of the humidity-controlled environment it's aged in, the inter-fat of the animal breaks down and disintegrates over time and becomes its own butter of sorts. When it’s cooked, it enhances the flavour and the meat is incredibly tender. 

What’s the secret to a perfect dry-aged steak?
As I said, it’s been a big learning curve with a lot of trial and error – I’ve aged beef for as long as 365 days even to see what it could do. But the secret to a perfectly aged steak is ageing it for 28-40 days. 

You’ve mentioned that you would love to open a branch of the Clubhouse Steakhouse in Sri Lanka – what would it look like here? 
Fine dining in Colombo. If, at that time, the local meat is up to the standard that’s necessary I would love to explore more of it but for now – quality, imported meat from good farms. I want to work with high-end ingredients and give Sri Lanka the best steak they’ve had. 

What’s your favourite childhood food? 
Mani pittu and moori aggala! My mom used to make it all the time. My grandmother was a crazy great cook so both my mom and my grandmother had a massive influence on my culinary palate. 

What’s one mistake people make when they cook their meat?
Overcomplicating it. The simpler the better. 

Team ‘Spice & Flavour’ or Team ‘Simple Flavours’?
The latter. I’m a big fan of simple flavours because, with quality beef, you don’t need anything beyond olive oil, salt and pepper. Maybe a touch of oregano. 

What’s something you found surprising – pleasantly or unpleasantly- when you started running your own steakhouse?
Trying to listen to customers tell me how to cook. It doesn’t work out and I’m confident in what I do. 

What’s been your biggest learning curve through it all?
That while it was all happening, I should have devoted more time to my kids. But I’m definitely doing that now. 

If it’s not the meats, your next favourite guilty pleasure food would be? 
I love my seafood. A good seafood nasi goreng or a good kottu works for me. 

When you are in Sri Lanka for the holidays, what’s the first thing we’d find you indulging in? 
Kiri pani! 

What’s your favourite cut to work with?
Fillet steak served medium rare seasoned with just salt and pepper. It’s less moved but it is one of the best pieces to work with. The intermuscular fat on the wall of the cut makes the meat so tender. 

Savour the intricate flavours of dry-aged meats and seafood by Chef Azam featured on the exclusive a la carte dinner menu at the London Grill from 10 – 21 January 2024. For more information, check out @cinnamongrandcolombo. 

Pictures: Waruna Wanniarachci / Azam Riyad Instagram 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Panchali Illankoon

Law Graduate, food and travel enthusiast and full time dog mom..


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