Chef Peter Kuruvita – Interview
There’s something about food that indispensably pertains to human bonding. From the start of the civilization that existed in tribes to perhaps the end of time, food has this enchanting lure that emanates comfort, closeness, and affection. Food brings us together, and shows us the way people live, reflects their emotions and their dreams. It is a collective part of human consciousness that has always been the one impetus behind our sociable existence. Not just that as humans we love to eat but food helps us understand the otherwise mute cultural diversity that is oft lost in translation. A bite tells more of how people aspire than volumes of telltale stories…
Australian chef, restaurateur, media personality and Dilmah Tea brand Ambassador, Peter Kuruvita, believes in the therapeutic prowess of food, how it helps us to learn, connect and establish ties. Known for his rich culturally inspired cooking, highly influenced by his Sri Lankan heritage Chef Peter Kuruvita spent his childhood in Sri Lanka where he developed his love of food and flavors by spending many blissful hours in the kitchen watching his grandmother prepare ancient family recipes.
Peter has been a highly regarded member of the Australian food scene for over 30 years. His restaurant, Sydney’s iconic Flying Fish, is renowned for its creative modern dishes with a strong seafood focus and stunning setting. Peter explored his Sri Lankan heritage in his TV series, My Sri Lanka, where the chef travels the beautiful country exposing traditional cultures and delicious recipes.
Brand ambassador to Dilmah Tea for many years, Peter Kuruvita recently visited the t-Lounge by Dilmah in Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai, and created an incredible new menu with the concept of ‘Tea Gastronomy. We sat down with Chef Peter Kuruvita and learned more about his travel tales, the love for tea and food and his culinary adventures around the world.
***Watch the full interview in the video link at the end of the post***
Given your Siri Lankan background, what is your relation with tea?
Chef Peter Kuruvita: I grew up drinking tea. It was a normal beverage. Sri Lankan tea is sweet and milky, and you have to ask for plain tea. But if you look into ginger tea it is a medicine, an herb, a comfort and all of those things and it has been around all the time. I don’t think Sri Lankan and the world understood the value of tea until Merrill Fernando got involved. Tea was a commodity so all the countries who grew tea in the world either the Dutch the English etc. who commoditized it, they would buy it in bulk from all around the world and take it Germany and mix it and sell it as Ceylon tea. Ceylon tea from earliest days has the name synonymous with the best tea in the world. Today you can still put 10% the Ceylon tea with a mixture from China and Asia and still call it Ceylon tea. So Merrill Fernando decided enough is enough and it has been thirty years now I have known them for 33 years when he came to Australian to launch and noticed my name on the menu and called me out and we had a chat and he told me what he is going to do. And that’s how my relationship with tea began after drinking it all my life.
Q: How would you explain the distinctive taste of Dilmah Tea, what sets it apart?
Chef Peter Kuruvita: Dilmah tea is not blended with any other tea in the world. So it is of a signal origin. All Dilmah tea comes from Sri Lanka unless there’s few specialized Chinese tea or matcha but we have also started making matcha in Sri Lanka… the production has just started. The green tea used to come only from China but now in Sri Lanka, two factories are also producing green tea. Pure Ceylon tea is grown in an incredible environment. The thing people don’t know about tea is that depending on the elevation the tea would change if you grow tea at sea level its strong its good black tea. as you go up to the mountain the higher you go the lighter the tea gets. From one plant Camellia sinensis, all these different things happen. Once a year they have the seasonal flush so this year 65 kilos means that it came from one plantation.
As a chef what inspires you to cook?
Chef Peter Kuruvita: Passion! Cooking is about passion. I was pushed into commercial cooking by my father, he realized that I loved cooking with my grandmother in our 360-year-old ancestral home in Colombo. He pushed me to go to a restaurant to and look for a job. This is what changed my life. Where I can use my hand and my head and every day is different and every country has different ingredients. It doesn’t stop there. Every person in this room has a different taste and to be able to bring them together and hopefully make them enjoy one dish is quite rewarding. Food is happiness and food brings people together.
How do you bridge the two continents together when it comes to food?
Chef Peter Kuruvita: Starting in London, getting to Srilanka, the homely down to earth amazing cooking, passion for food and search for flavor, always looking for best things cooking daily rather than filling in the fridge. Got to Australia it was really hard for us, in the beginning, I started my apprenticeship, I was lucky enough to work with some of the best chefs in Sydney. I finished my apprenticeship and backpacked for a year through India. Had my 21st birthday on the banks of river Ganges. Got to London and my first job was at a one Michelin starred restaurant. And I thought to my self that back in Australia we were doing really well. That’s when the realization came. So I came back to Australia got offered a job by Neil Perry and started my cooking career. One thing happened to me, I had a French base but this little Asian boy in me was always itching to come out to do something different. And Neil perry a white ponytail guy was cooking Thai food. It was the first time someone brought Asian food into modern Australian food in a restaurant. So I thought to myself I can do this. So, my food is modern Australian seafood with a twist of Sri Lanka and I am now pushing modern Sri Lankan food on to the masses and they are loving it.
What is food to you?
Chef Peter Kuruvita: It’s comfort, it’s family, sharing stories, it’s tasty, it’s creative, it’s never ending yet ever-changing and fun!
Chef Peter Kuruvita full Interview at the t-Lounge by Dilmah in Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai