Jayce Ho shares how she spends her weekends cooking low-and-slow style meat for up to 20 hours - just to chase a hobby.
She sits by a huge smoker grill for hours, patiently watching a huge slab of brisket being slow-cooked. It’s a process that takes up to 22 hours and Jayce Ho does this every weekend, spending her nights in a central kitchen at Pandan Crescent.
All this, just to chase a hobby – which she eventually turned into a small business, SGBrisket Kitchen, to earn some side income – of cooking meat over fire.
Jayce, who is in her early 30s, first got interested in cooking meat when she was in Girl Guides as a student.
“I didn’t expect to ignite cooking fires with leaves and wood. Sometimes we cooked purely with the sun. It’s such a primitive way of cooking and takes a long time, but it’s the best food you’ll taste in your life,” she shares.
“After I graduated, I missed that style of cooking. I picked up barbecuing but I got bored of it, so I read up on what else I could do and stumbled upon low-and-slow.”
Low-and-slow cooking involves low temperatures and long cook times, and is done to add flavour and depth to meat without it drying out or being burnt.
Initially, Jayce was put off of low-and-slow because of the intensive process.
“These people are ‘crazy’,” she says, referring to the people she had seen in YouTube videos prior to picking up low-and-slow.
“They don’t sleep and they smoke (the food) overnight for 18 hours. I shelved that idea aside, but a few years later, here I am with the ‘crazy’ people,” she says, laughing.
Jayce, who has been barbecuing for 10 years and smoking meat for two years, admits that it was daunting when she first got started.
Apart from the fact that low-and-slow cooking is more common in the Western countries and hardly seen in Singapore, Jayce admits that she is not someone with patience.
“The hours are extremely long… in fact, everyone was dumbfounded when I told them it takes me 18 hours to smoke a piece of meat,” shares Jayce.
“I use wood and charcoal too, which isn’t as stable as gas or electric smokers. On average it takes 16 to 18 hours to smoke meat, but it can be up to 22 hours if it’s raining or too humid. There are just a lot of small factors that can slow down the process, and it’s really tiring.”
She shared about an instance where a slab of brisket slipped off her hand and onto the floor, after spending 18 hours smoking it. She had a long week at her full-time corporate job, and was feeling tired when it happened.
“It was heartbreaking. There was no way to salvage the meat due to hygiene reasons, so I quietly cleaned it up by myself. It was a huge mess, and I was so tired,” she recalls.
There were also technical problems when she first launched SGBrisket Kitchen.
“Customers have told me they set alarms and reminders for when I release booking slots for my food- I never expected this demand. When I first released the website, the server crashed and I felt so bad that those people who were really excited to try my food couldn’t.”
Even now, she faces setbacks, although recently they’ve been from people rather than technology. She spoke about people who thought her hobby made her unfeminine or who didn’t believe she could do a good job.
“I chop wood, I use a big huntsman’s ax and I carry like 60kg of meat for SGBrisket Kitchen- even though I don’t have any muscle,” she quips. “We should really move away from the concept that girls should be dainty.”
“If (girls) want to be on the same level as guys, just work hard,” Jayce stated. “People will surely look down on you, but if you keep quiet and persevere you’ll prove them wrong.”
Though there are cons to both sustaining her hobby and running the business, Jayce shares that the good far outweighs the bad.
“The process takes a long time, but every time I lift up the finished product and (the brisket) is so jiggly and soft, I get so proud of myself. When I slice the meat and it’s juicy, there’s this sense of accomplishment. It’s completely worth the time it takes to do it for me,” she says.
She is also grateful for the support that she had received since starting SGBrisket Kitchen. Her customers have been supportive, something that she says she appreciates a lot.
“They’ll give me feedback, and I know that they took time to purchase my product and give constructive criticism so it doesn’t matter if what they say is good or bad. I don’t take it so personally, because if these people didn’t care, they wouldn’t bother to drop me a note. They really keep me going,” says Jayce.
“Even though so much has happened, I can’t say there’s been a lowest point in my journey. Don’t set that limit for yourself, just take it as a challenge and see how you’re going to change the situation into an opportunity.”
“If you want to embark on a new hobby, even if it’s as tiring as this one, just make sure you work hard, be genuine and appreciative, and set clear goals. You’ll be able to find something that keeps your passion burning.”
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