TOWN OF ORIGIN
Taking regular walks
String hoppers with tomato curry
King coconut water
HIMSELF IN ONE WORD
Saroj Kaluarachchi is a culinary maestro who specialises in Italian cuisine. With over 25 years’ experience in the field of culinary arts, he hopes to impart his knowledge and skills to those working under him. Saroj is currently the Executive Chef at The Bayleaf and is an advocate of simplicity in the kitchen.
Q: How were you inspired to venture into the hospitality trade?
A: My aunt – who was the principal of a hotel school and the Catering Manager at Ceylon Hotels Corporation – encouraged me to enter the hospitality industry and I haven’t looked back since. I began training soon after completing my A-Levels and started my career at Pegasus Reef Hotel as a commis chef.
Q: Tell us how your day unfolds...
A: My day begins at 10.30 a.m. After briefing my staff, and checking the reservations and bookings for the day – as well as setting up the Mise en Place – I supervise the lunch service.
That’s followed by a short break in the afternoon. Later, I prepare for the dinner service, monitoring progress and ensuring that all guests are comfortable, as well as satisfied with the food and service. Usually, I wrap up at 11 p.m.
Q: What was your first dish?
A: Cream of chicken soup.
Q: And what do you consider your greatest achievement as a chef?
A: My greatest achievement was becoming the Executive Chef of The Bayleaf. I’m also proud of my overseas stints in Singapore and the Maldives.
Q: What’s the most challenging cui-sine to prepare?
A: Indian cuisine is quite challenging because of the various flavours.
Q: Tell us about emerging trends in food and drink...
A: Italian food trends focus on quality products that are backed by Italian tradition and heritage. There’s a growing demand for natural sources of vegetable protein and low carbohydrate, or carb free Italian dishes without compromising on taste or tradition.
Healthy food options that are free of preservatives and gluten are in high demand. Fusion and ethnic cuisine remain popular. And in terms of drinks, beverages that are infused with local fruits and herbs are steadily gaining popularity.
Q: Would you have any advice for the home cooks among us?
A: More people have begun cooking at home since the COVID-19 outbreak and my advice to them is to arrange all the ingre-dients prior to cooking in order to minimise wastage.
Moreover, it’s important to keep it healthy by using fresh local ingredients and flavours.
Q: What are your favourite ingredients and why?
A: Garlic, rosemary and celery – they are the main components of Italian cuisine.
Q: Name three favourite utensils that you can’t do without...
A: A good knife, chopping board and pair of tongs.
Q: Are there any cooking tips or tricks you would like to share with us?
A: The essence of Italian cooking is simplicity. All you need are the freshest seasonal ingredients and basic cooking tech-niques to enhance the natural flavour of food simply. A simple meal can also be enhanced by its presentation.
Béchamel sauce is a creamy-white sauce made with butter, flour and milk. It helps bind or hold together some of your fa-vourite preparations such as lasagne, pasta, macaroni, scalloped potatoes and other vegetable dishes.
Q: In view of your current role, what future plans do you have?
A: Having been in the industry for over 25 years, I would love to use my knowledge and skills to train and prepare other chefs for culinary competitions such as the International Salon Culinaire and Culinary Olympics.
Q: Your advice to aspiring chefs...
A: Stay focussed and always cook with passion. Be creative but within limits.
RECIPEStart by boiling the pasta. In a separate pan, add butter and sauté the onions and celery. Then include the crab meat and sauté for a few minutes. Add the cooking cream and tomato to the mix, and stir until there’s an even consistency. Toss the pasta into the mixture, add oregano and Parmesan cheese, and mix well. Your tagliatelle granchio is now ready to be plated and served.
This recipe serves one