Timothy Nathaniel Jay

Timothy Nathaniel Jay, Restauranteur and Chef

Timothy Nathaniel Jay

In this interview, Timothy Nathaniel Jay, shares his view on the pandemic and some behind the stories from the viewpoint of a chef.

Full name and title?
The name on my birth certificate is Timothy Nathaniel Jay. Depending on how I know you and when I met you, I’m known by many different names. The most common are Tim, TJay, Jay or Nathan. I never liked my name and I have always wanted to change it.
Title? I haven’t assigned one to myself. I don’t think I want one or need one. Since the onset of Covid, I realized that titles are self-limiting at best, or worse, others define as you a check box on a form.
I have spent a lifetime in the hospitality industry in many various roles, primarily as a chef and in a leadership capacity. But my skills and talents go way beyond the kitchen. Beyond the industry. There is still so much more to do. So much more to be a part of.

What do you do professionally?
At the moment, my partners and I operate a restaurant project called Soul Byrd: American fried chicken and hot sauces.
Soul Byrd is the result of lockdowns. It is meant to be a culinary bridge celebrating the similarities of Deep South cooking to Malaysia. The weather and ingredients are very similar and yet the results are often vastly different.
Soul Byrd is a scratch kitchen focused on using local ingredients. We really make just about everything.
I am developing some spin-off concepts and some new integrations for Soul Byrd. It’s important to keep growing and changing the food. We are here to serve people and the community.

How did you get into the industry?
It was a complete accident. I graduated from high school early. I had been accepted for early entry into university to study nuclear engineering. Two days before Thanksgiving, one of my best friends committed suicide. I internalized the stress and became very ill with mononucleosis and pneumonia. I was bedridden for a few months.
I missed my opportunity for early entrance to university.
After that I took a job as a steward, washing dishes for the Marriott. I started painting and I went to art school to become a writer.
I cooked in many restaurants to pay for art school and university. My family wasn’t supportive of my decisions and there was tremendous pressure from them.
Over the years, I became very good at cooking. I just decided to follow that as a career path and started pushing hard to grow and to make more money.

What’s a food memory from your childhood that stands out?
The first time I ever ate at a restaurant without my parents was after a school dance in eighth grade. I was terribly excited because my family almost never ate at restaurants and when we did, I wasn’t allowed to order my own food.
The restaurant was called Houlihan’s, a badly themed Irish restaurant in the mall. I ordered escargot. The snails were bubbling and popping in a metal painter’s palette filled with garlic butter! That’s when I knew that I loved food.
As soon as I could drive, I often went to restaurants by myself so that I could try new things. I lived in Chicago so I had access to Korean, Ethiopian, Polish, Greek, Russian food, etc.

What is the best and worse part of your job?
The best part hasn’t changed in more than 30 years. When I see the joy on a person’s face because I created a food memory and an experience that will stay with them for years.
The worst? Technology and social media. Neither one has made my life easier. I must respect them and know about them in order to stay relevant and be successful in business.
I remember placing food orders from a phone that hung on the kitchen wall. The cord keeping you tethered in a small radius.
I ran multiple restaurants without a cell phone by scheduling my time at the different locations.
Now there are 25 different payment systems, the comment of a single person can crush your business and WhatsApp removes boundaries making people feel it’s ok to send every random unimportant thought at any time of day or night.
I miss when this business was about making food that makse people happy.

What’s your favourite food and beverage pairing?
Changes all the time based on my mood. Today, I want New Mexico Green Pork Chile, corn tortillas, Don Julio Anejo with a sangrita (citrus juice, hot sauce and tomato juie) on the side.

Timothy Nathaniel Jay’s perfect day off?
My wife and I out in the forest staying in a cabin. Cold enough to see your breath, while rain tap dances on the roof. A small fire burning. A nice antipasto and several bottles of wine. An old typewriter from the 1940s and some big band jazz playing just loud enough to not interfere with the sound of the rain.

What’s in store for you in the next couple of months?
I’m working on a few ghost kitchen concepts. I would like to test the market on some new things to see if people are ready for them here.
I am also planning on expanding the Soul Byrd menu. The price of oil and chicken continues to rise. So I am planning vegetarian options, healthy choices and tacos. I would also like to create an online store by the end of Q2 next year to start selling hot sauces, spices and other goods.

Find more interviews similar to this one with Timothy Nathaniel Jay here, and stay up to date with the latest food and beverage happenings in KL here.

One Comment

  1. Sounds like it was pre-destined, this guy ending up in the food business.

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