DNX FOOD AND TRAVEL | Smoke ‘em all: JKN Lounge by the Boarist

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Rowen Lyn Guacena
Rockstar young mother. Fighter. Survivor.

I have often been told never to eat my feelings.

Sometimes though, it just can not be helped.

The JKN Lounge by the Boarist is unpretentious but you the rustic ambience is perfect match for the smoked meats being offered. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
The JKN Lounge by the Boarist is unpretentious but you the rustic ambience is perfect match for the smoked meats being offered. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

But do you know what is better than eating your feelings? Eating bacon, of course!

That is why I was grateful when a friend of mine introduced me to some really good bacon.

I am talking smoked bacon and not the kind that you buy in the grocery store.

Last weekend, I was able to come up to JKN Farm at Barangay Concepcion, Talisay City. I sat down with Hernane Treyes, one of the owners of JKN Lounge By The Boarist and mastermind behind the first ever meat smoking cafe in Talisay City.

Tapa on a plate. Not smoked but served sizzling. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
Tapa on a plate. Not smoked but served sizzling. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

What started as a hot topic in one of their happy hour sessions led to a four-month pork experiment that eventually became the perfect smoked bacon I have ever had.

JKN Lounge by The Boarist officially opened for business on September 1st of this year, amid the raging the pandemic.

THE RIGHT TIME

The pandemic has thrown the business community in a loop.

Smoked Hungarian sausages. Smoking infuses another layer of flavor to the meat. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
Smoked Hungarian sausages. Smoking infuses another layer of flavor to the meat. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

But for Hernane Treyes, one-third of the JKN Lounge By the Boarist, it was an opportunity to open the biz.

“It was the right time,” Hernane tells DNX.  It is, after all, a matter of timing. Since a lot of businesses closed down, this allowed smaller businesses the opportunity to enter the market and establish their name and presence.

JKN is originally the name of the farm, JKN Farm.

They decided to have their business under the same brand to avoid the hassle of getting permits. Their official name is Smoked By The Boarist.

Because both the farm and cafe are located in the same area, guests can enjoy both fruit picking and a hearty lunch and maybe even top it off with an extra-strong cup of native brewed coffee or two.

Hungarian with egg and rice. Classic breakfast meal that can be enjoyed everyday. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
Hungarian with egg and rice. Classic breakfast meal that can be enjoyed everyday. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

Initially, their plan was just to put up a cafe where they serve native brewed coffee but their smoked products were well received and the demand going up merely one month of introducing these to the market.

Their first product, and my personal favorite, is their smoked bacon. It is their bread and butter.

After a month, they introduced smoked pork ribs and the classic back ribs.

This writer has met Hernane before when we were both still working at a call center.  When asked what made him decide to quit the BPO industry and start a business, he reveals that it was not a decision he made out of a whim.

Hernane Treyes of JKN Lounge talks shop, literally, with DNX Lifetsyle and food correspondent Rowen Lyn Guacena. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
Hernane Treyes of JKN Lounge talks shop, literally, with DNX Lifetsyle and food correspondent Rowen Lyn Guacena. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

There were already plans to for quite some time to put up a coffee shop.

“However, what actually clicked were the smoked meats,” he admits.

The biggest factor that contributed to the delay was financial readiness.

As soon as they had the budget they were more than ready to move on from their call center life.

If you ask this writer, I find smoking really tedious but mostly, strange.

The uniqueness of smoked products is actually why they chose to smoke their meats, instead of the traditional fried, sizzling and grilled.

They wanted to be the first to introduce it to Negros.

Smoking gives the meat a distinct taste, unlike other means of food prep. The heat cooks it, the smoke adds to the flavor, Hernane Treyes says. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
Smoking gives the meat a distinct taste, unlike other means of food prep. The heat cooks it, the smoke adds to the flavor, Hernane Treyes says. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

What makes smoked products more appealing is their distinct flavor and smokey aroma.

It has always been a common culture for Negrosanons, or just people in general, to be attracted to what is hot and what is new.

That is why they make it a point to introduce something new on the menu every month. So far, demand for their product just keeps getting higher which proves that it is not just a fad. It is a testament to all the hard work they’ve invested.

So let us really get into the intriguing art of smoking meats.

Smoking is a precise science of finding the exact temperature without undercooking the meat but at the same time, infusing it with the right amount of smokey aroma, Hernane Treyes says. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
Smoking is a precise science of finding the exact temperature without undercooking the meat but at the same time, infusing it with the right amount of smokey aroma, Hernane Treyes says. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

It all starts with the meat, Hernane says. They have set their own standards in choosing their meat and anything below their satisfaction is not considered at all.

Next is the curing process which usually takes three to four days.

The meat is then washed before it is smoked for three to four hours. They typically produce six kilograms of smokey goodness per day.

What they are not able to sell fresh, they would pack and freeze, ready to be sold and delivered to eager buyers who are not able to make the trip to the farm. They use whatever wood is available on the farm for smoking.

Back ribs is also offered in the cafe along with rice. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
Back ribs is also offered in the cafe along with rice. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

Hernane’s personal preference is the rambutan because first of all, it is really abundant. Second is the distinct taste of bitterness-to-salty that one does not normally get in ordinary salt. They also use wood from lanzones and mangosteen trees when rambutan wood is not available.

Both their flavors are not as strong as that of rambutan, though, mangosteen wood gives better heat.

So what is the difference between smoke and heat?

“Smoke is what gives the aroma while heat is what cooks the meat,” he says.

If the heat is too high but there is not enough smoke, the meat gets cooked but the smokiness doesn’t quite stick. That is why controlling the temperature is very crucial.

Which would also explain why it took them four months of trial and error to come up with their perfect recipe of balanced temperatures, heat and rub.

The queen of the lounge -- smoked bacon, a product of four months of trial and error. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
The queen of the lounge — smoked bacon, a product of four months of trial and error. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

During the four months they spent experimenting, they spent way too much money on the meats they tested on and even more money on the beer.  They hit on the perfect combo.

However, their smartest investment was their level of perfectionism. Two months in, Hernane already felt that their product is ready to be introduced to the market, but his partner, Jan Louie Enriquez, was not as satisfied.

They wanted a product that was perfect for the both of them because they do not want to keep changing their recipe.

They wanted to establish a signature flavor of their own. They understand the risk and they were willing to gamble.

Juicy, plump Hungarian sausages smoked and served and ready for the next hungry customer. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
Juicy, plump Hungarian sausages smoked and served and ready for the next hungry customer. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

Anyway, what didn’t end up in their pockets, would end up in their bellies. So it is a win-win situation.

For them, the hardest challenge was determining the perfect recipe.

Their biggest success was when they could barely catch up to the demand for their bacon. The majority of their sales are from their repacked products. Since their location is not that accessible, quite remote actually, the only visitors they get are people visiting the farm and cyclists that pass by.

Hernane feels that their business is almost stable. He says, “We are still introducing more products. Some weeks, we even make zero profit and then we’d bounce back the week after. We are still working on our marketing strategies.”

They plan to put up a new restaurant in Bacolod with a brand of their own, Smoked By The Boarist, in the next three years.

They go by JKN Lounge By The Boarist in Facebook where you can message or call them for orders.

They deliver out of town every Tuesday and Friday.

To anyone who wants a taste of good quality food in a super relaxed ambiance Hernane has a few words, “Try niyo di visit sa amon farm sa JKN Farm, Barangay Concepcion. May fishing man di and then food is on us, smoked bacon, smoked ribs, smoked sausage and coffee. We have a new product, smoked ham, for December lang na siya. First come, first served, limited slots only.”

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