29 Questions with: Joshua Adjodha

Co-founder of Kilo concepts and Grain Traders

By Levin Tan | 04 March, 2019 | Profiles
2019-03-04 16:50:19 2019-03-04 16:50:19

Joshua Adjodha’s background is as multifaceted as his style. Born in Brooklyn, New York to a Puerto Rican mother and a father from Saint Lucia, he grew up in the Caribbean. Growing up, Joshua helped out his aunt at her hot dog stand and was surrounded by the business of food on his paternal side of the family, who owned multiple F&B establishments across Saint Lucia.

What was meant to be a short leisure trip to Singapore from Florida soon evolved into something more—after meeting Javier Perez at Kilo, Joshua is now here to stay, leading the Kilo concepts and locations locally and abroad. When he’s not busy helping to conceptualise new menus for the restaurant and lounge, assisting in operations, or everything in-between and under, he is constantly pondering new ways to move Kilo forward.

Joshua’s passion for his work readily shines through, and we were lucky enough to catch a glimmer of his thoughts in action. We sat down with him and picked his brain on his past, present and future. Most of all, we wanted to have a little fun.

1. How did you celebrate the year end festive season?

This year I spent it in Jakarta at Kilo Kitchen and Kilo Lounge with our new team there. We soft launched Kilo Jakarta on Christmas Eve so most of my attention is currently required there. I created a special set menu for New Year’s Eve and threw an intimate disco party at the lounge to usher in the new year and break into the new space. Though different, it was great experience being able to spend the festive season and getting to bond with the new team.

2. With Kilo Kitchen reunited with sister property Kilo Lounge in the same neighbourhood, could you share what lies ahead for the brand?

When we first opened Kilo Lounge in the same building as Kilo Kitchen in our original Kampong Bugis location, we realised how much people enjoyed the all-encompassing experience of dining with us at Kilo Kitchen and taking our shady lift a few floors up to Kilo Lounge to party with us. We hope that we are able to achieve the same experience with this move, where the new Kilo Kitchen is now just a stone’s throw away from the lounge. Our next step is to integrate the Kilo brand with our new neighbourhood, so you can expect block parties, markets and collaborations with our neighbours in the Duxton and Tanjong Pagar community come 2019.

As for the brands under the Kilo umbrella, we are looking to expand beyond Singapore and into Asia and Europe.

3. When did you realise that a career in the F&B industry was the one for you?

I’m not sure it was ever a realisation; rather, I was drawn to food at a very early age. My mom has often told me that while my siblings always wanted to watch cartoons, I was always entertained by cooking shows. Fast forward to a careless stage in my life where I was dropping out of high school, I had no other choice but to work any odd jobs I could get in the F&B industry.

Throughout the years of starting as a dishwasher at the age of 14 and literally working every position that existed in the restaurant and nightlife industry, I started developing a passion for the industry. It got to a point where I began to be more selective about the jobs I applied for based on a skillset or cuisine I wanted to learn.

If there was ever a realisation, I think it truly hit me during my first year in Singapore eight years ago, where I saw a vibrant F&B and hospitality scene here ripe for development. I remember talking to friends and businessowners of F&B concepts who would ask for my opinion and listen to my advice. I think it was at that point that I realised that with all the knowledge and skills I had accumulated over the

past 14 years in the industry, that I not only wanted, but also had the ability to create concepts that would add to the then vibrant scene in Singapore.

When I look back at past decisions or mistakes, I truly believe that everything happened the way it was supposed to in order to get to this stage of my career.

4. Where do your inspirations for the Kilo concepts come from?

My business partners Javier and Sharon Perez originally founded the first Kilo in Kampong Bugis, and I joined a year shortly after it opened. A lot of the initial inspiration come from the original Kilo itself – it was this raw, industrial, and almost-hole in the wall restaurant that was different from anything I had seen in Singapore at that time. Whether it’s at Camp Kilo Charcoal Club, Kilo Lounge, or our outlets in Bali or Jakarta, I always look back at the original Kilo for inspiration.

The way our cuisine has evolved is largely drawn from our own culture, past experiences and a burning desire to always learn about the culture of any region we decide to call home. To that end, the cuisine we offer and is recognised for today is now rooted in refined comfort food, with Latin and Asian influences – all served in a space that feels familiar and homely.

5. If there is only one dish you can recommend to diners at Kilo, which one is it and why?

Definitely our Squid Ink Rice with crispy baby squid, ikura and burnt aioli. Why? Because it’s one of the—if not the—OG dishes on the menu. It is one of the key dishes we created in our earlier years that inspired our cuisine direction; ingredients for a traditional Latin paella is treated with Asian fried rice techniques. I always tell people it’s essentially Kilo on a plate.

6. So which cocktail would you recommend to pair with _____ (dish answered in #5)?

The Squid Ink Rice can be a little spicy for some so I would recommend the Sure Thing. It’s a refreshing cucumber and house infused vanilla vodka concoction that has been on the menu since Kilo began its cocktail programme.

7. What is your favourite Singaporean dish?

Easy… Chili Crab. When I first moved to Singapore and discovered this dish, I literally ate chili crab once a week for almost a year. There are three people who can attest to this, heh.

I loved it so much that I would always try it in different places. When I first moved to Singapore, I lived in Geylang so I was exposed to a lot of great and interesting local dishes. I found this uncle that made a chili crab that stood out from the rest. It got to a point where I would constantly return to eat his chili crab and pester him to teach me his recipe. This went on for over three months and he still didn’t share his recipe but allowed me to stand in the kitchen on one shift and observe without asking any questions. Fair to say, I picked up a thing or two!

Second would be Bak Chor Mee.

8. Is there any particular food that you just cannot comprehend why it’s so popular in Singapore?

Nope as a lover of food I have yet to come across such a thing.

9. What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?

Live octopus while it was still moving – not because its was octopus, but because it was still moving. Nonetheless delicious.

10. Is there any food you dare not try?

I will try everything at least three times before I give up on it.

11. What is your comfort food?

Rice and Beans, fried chicken.

12. Is there any dish on Kilo Kitchen menu which is unique to Singapore that diners should try?

If people are looking for a dish unique to Singapore they should ask about the daily specials our chefs have created for that day – they’ll definitely be in for a treat. While a portion of our menu will be consistent across all Kilo Kitchens and feature our time-tested classics, we reserve a space in our menus that allow our chefs to flex their creative muscles and share their interpretation of Kilo.

In Singapore, chef Manel Valero draws from his Spanish and Mediterranean influences in special dishes such as the Fish of the Day, which is always changing based on what is fresh and in season. Whereas in Kilo Jakarta, chef Yohans Gozal infuses his Indonesian culture into special local dishes such as his very popular Tuna Balado.

13. What made the Kilo brand decide to choose Bali as the place for its first overseas venture 4 years ago?

Honestly, it was a great opportunity and deal we couldn’t pass up. Our current partners in Bali were originally regulars of our first Kilo Kitchen in Singapore who really believed in our concept and brand. We developed a friendship over time and after a year or so of research and conversations, we felt confident that Bali would make a great second home for Kilo. Four and half years later and it still remains one of the best decisions we made, and we couldn’t be happier with our Kilo Bali family.

14. We understand that the new Kilo Jakarta will be opened in January 2019. Could you share your reasons behind choosing the city?

With the success of Kilo Bali, we noticed that a large part of our clientele from the past two years were tourists from Jakarta. They love and support what we do and would always ask us when we plan to set up shop in Jakarta.

We were looking to expand Kilo into Jakarta three years ago, but the timing just didn’t feel right then. It wasn’t until last year when we knew for certain that we wanted to be in Jakarta, and it boiled down to

whether we could find the right space, and thankfully enough, we found one. Jakarta is a vibrant and bustling city – we hope to add to the fabric there as we did in Singapore for the F&B and entertainment scene.

15. Is there any unique ingredient in Asia that you are itching to use for your next creative concept on the menu?

Now that I’ve been spending a lot of time in Jakarta, there are so many new ingredients that I am exposed to and get to experiment with every day. However, instead of a specific ingredient, there is a dish called Bebek Goreng that I have been trying to conceptualise its own Kilo interpretation that can be a unique addition to the Kilo Jakarta menu.

16. What is one thing you learnt in school that has stuck with you?

Make your own way. School didn’t really teach me this. Rather, it was something I learned from the lack of.

17. What are three items you can’t do without in life?

My phone, music, and a knife – for obvious reasons.

18. When are you happiest at work?

I’m happiest during any creative phase, be it design, construction, menu development, planning an event or show – those are the times when I usually feel most useful and fulfilled.

19. When are you most unhappy at work?

Obviously when things go wrong…

20. What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from all those press releases?

I don’t know if it’s interesting—and sometimes amusing to people—but I used to be an aspiring Latin rapper and reggaeton artist. Sometimes when I’m bored I still write songs for fun.

21. What is the funniest thing that has happened to you since you came to Singapore?

Any time somebody tells me the morning after “I didn’t know you could rap” or “where did that rapping come from last night”.

22. If you had a friend from your hometown coming to visit you in Singapore, where would you bring him to if you only have a day to spare?

All the Kilo concepts, of course, as well as Grain Traders as I’m sure they’d want to see what I’ve been up to
– Some quick tourist stuff like the Marina Bay Sands Skypark and surrounding area so they can get their pictures fix in
-Newton Circus for some food before sending them off

23. Could you share what is the easiest meal to impress a date?

If I was the one trying to impress, I would prepare my Rice and Beans which is a dish I can whip up with my eyes closed. If I was giving someone advice, I would say the easiest is a simple and nice homemade pasta, especially if you make the pasta and sauce from scratch – that usually impresses.

24. What is your favourite food memory?

It has to be leaving the States and moving to Puerto Rico for the first time. I remember going to a restaurant near my grandma’s house and I tried Mofongo con Caldo y Carne Frita for the first time – essentially just simple mashed plantains with garlic fried pork chunks and a fragrant chicken broth to dip everything in. I couldn’t get enough of it.

If I’m ever feeling homesick or trying to nurse a hangover, you can find me at Camp Kilo Charcoal Club making a batch of this to feel better.

25. What is the most recent book that you have read which has influenced the way you approach your business?

I’m terrible at reading books! As much as I’ve tried, books just don’t seem to capture my attention unless it has to do with food. I read and collect a lot of those.

For business, I am constantly learning and teaching myself whether it is through videos or articles that I read. The way I approach business evolves just as everything else I do – I try everything at least for the first time so I can learn from my mistakes and experiences, and focus on who I want to be and the best way of going about getting there.

26. What are some of your proudest moments since stepping into the industry?

Every time there is growth in the group, I am at my proudest. Whether it’s the growth of the business or the growth of a team member – basically any time there is some form of evolution.

Sometimes we are so busy and focused on what is in front of us and what is ahead that we forget to appreciate how fortunate we are to be doing what we love.

But if I had to name a few
-Each time we opened the doors of a new concept
-Standing in the DJ booth of Kilo Lounge on our first full house night
-My partner thanking me for my contributions in the growth of our company
-Seeing the team grow and evolve within the company

27. Best piece of advice you would give to an aspiring new talent in the F&B industry?

Be passionate and love what you do, there is no half stepping it.

28. What would you like to have for your last meal?

It would have to be my comfort food: Puerto Rican Rice and Beans with fried chicken maybe some avocado salad.

29. And finally, if you could turn back time, when is the period you would like to go back to and why?

There are so many ways to answer this question! The nerd in me would first want to get in a deeper conversation on time travel, wormholes, quantum mechanics, and whether I can retain the knowledge I have, change the past, ripple effects, and I could go on and on.

But seriously speaking I wouldn’t want to go back, and would rather go forward. I’m always excited for what’s ahead.

Writer who cracks heads like they crack quail eggs; always looking for opportunities to ingest insects, just because it’s something they’ve yet to do.