Kiran Jethwa Schools Us On The Basics Of Cooking With Fire - Exclusive

If Hulu's "Chefs vs. Wild" is the first time you've met Kiran Jethwa, you've only ever seen him at the judges' table. It's a relatively new look for the Kenyan-born chef, who's usually learning to fish with otters, hunting birds with bows and arrows, or scaling a 100-foot palm tree to collect sap for wine. In fact, if "Chefs vs. Wild" whets your appetite for more, those are all adventures you can witness Jethwa undertake on "Fearless Food," a YouTube channel that emanates a singular purpose, and one that "Chefs vs. Wild" shares. When Jethwa started "Fearless Food," he did so — as he explained to Variety — to "stretch [our] culinary imagination and understand how to use ingredients and food to their maximum potential."

Plot twist: Sometimes, stretching our culinary imaginations means going back to the basics. "A key point of ["Chefs vs. Wild"] is that the chefs have no electricity and the kitchen has no power at all," Jethwa recently told Tasting Table in an exclusive interview. "Everything was fire and using your hands, which also made it challenging. We get very used to having the blenders and mixers and big machines and all kinds of stuff."

That means that chefs on the show not only have to grill — they also have to smoke, roast, and bake their foraged ingredients into gourmet meals. Jethwa, who said that he's been "cook[ing] with fire my entire life" and knows "most of the tricks in the book," gave us the basics.

Controlling heat when cooking with fire

Cooking with fire is not like learning to use an air fryer or an Instant Pot. You'll have to swap electricity for patience. "A lot of it is practice, and it is learning about how to control the flow of the air — when to bring it in, when to stop it," Kiran Jethwa explained to Tasting Table. Depending on what you want to cook, you'll also have to learn "what stage to use the wood as it's burning," Jethwa advised. But grilling is one thing, and baking is another — and that requires a fire that's burnt down to "ashy coals."

How can you replicate the cake that Chef Viet baked in Episode 1 of "Chefs vs. Wild"? "You need a vessel that will be a barrier between food and coals, so it must have a lid and not let any ashes in," Jethwa said. While you won't have an oven thermometer, there's a workaround for that. "Generally, you bake a cake at about ... 350-ish Fahrenheit," Jethwa explained. "You could put your hand in the oven for about 5 to 10 seconds before it got uncomfortable. When you want to know that your fire's ready, you do the same thing. Put your hand there. It needs to be uncomfortable after about five seconds but not so hot that it would easily burn."

Keep in mind that baking isn't like barbecuing. "If you're baking a cake, you want to push the coals up around the side and then put them on top, because what you're doing is mimicking what an oven does," Jethwa explained. "Dump your pot in, pack all the coals all the way up the side. Stick some on top, and leave it for 45 minutes and hope."

Catch Kiran Jethwa on "Chefs vs. Wild," which is streaming now on Hulu.