A TOP SECRET COMMISSION
What do you do when the High Commissioner of Australia in Sri Lanka calls you up and asks you to present a gala dinner at her new residence in Sri Lanka? You struggle every day not to tell anyone!
My journey started when Ms Robyn Mudie found out she’d been appointed to the illustrious position of Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and a beautiful new residence was to be built.
One night Ms Mudie and her husband John were watching My Sri Lanka and John suggested, “why don’t we get that guy to open the new residence with a gala dinner featuring Australian / Sri Lankan food especially prepared for the evening?”
A top secret meeting was organized and (can you believe) I was the subject!
It was an incredible honour for the Australian government to invite me to take part in an event paying tribute to the two countries dearest to my heart; Sri Lanka made me the man I am today and Australia gave me the opportunities and support to become whoever and whatever I could make myself.
I began receiving important correspondence from the High Commission where every email subject line began with [UNCLASSIFIED] – I asked if they could (just once) send me a [CLASSIFIED] note…they politely declined.
A WONDERFUL EMIRATES FLIGHT
As a child I remember walking down the aisle of an airplane marveling at the roomy First and Business Class seats, on this trip I was one of the ones lucky enough to enjoy the immeasurable hospitality of the Emirates Business Class experience – it was extraordinary.
At the airport I sailed through a classy check-in to the flawless embrace of a hand shaken cocktail and a delicious lunch.
As a man who speaks 5+ languages there is something thrilling about hearing your name spoken in 10 different accents from 10 different flight crew, the airplane was stunning, service impeccable and the seats comfier than many hotel rooms I’ve stayed in.
SETTING UP AND CINNAMON LAKESIDE
An entire film crew from MTV sports channel followed me for the entire journey and will air a 1-hour show about the event in Sri Lanka, keep on the lookout and I’ll post its air date on Facebook when I find out.
Most exciting of all however was to receive the beautiful, fresh produce from Australia. Everything, down to the smallest ingredients was ordered from home and I had the pleasure of showing the kitchen staff got the best in Australian produce – the freshest Yellow fin tuna, portion cut Happuka from 2000 meters down and beautiful pork fillets.
We wanted to prove that Australian produce is easily accessible to chefs overseas and my aim is to increase food trade between Australia and Sri Lanka.
“We are delighted to work with Peter Kuruvita to present to a Sri Lankan audience Australian excellence in food and wine products. Australia’s dynamic food and wine industry is driven by demanding consumers seeking diversity, quality and value.” said High Commissioner Robyn Mudie.
After three 16-hour days we were ready for the event!
To run an event like this in Australia you would generally have 4 or 5 chefs and an equal amount of waiters then when it’s all over you roll up your sleeves and clean up together.
“Chef,” the chef from Cinnamon Lakeside told me, “I don’t think we have enough chefs..I’ll organize more.”
A total of 14 chefs, 22 waiters, 6 kitchen porters, 1 manager, 2 assistant manager and the chief steward ended up working the event…at one stage we were all so squished into the Ambassador’s residence’s kitchen I realized how a sardine must feel – it would have made a classic photo.
Once the event got underway we spread out and everyone played their part perfectly.
In attendance were high-profile business people, leading hoteliers, sports stars and so many more notables – it was a very, very special event. At the tables were my old friends and owner/operators of Dilmah Tea and the MJF Charitable Foundation Dilhan and Malik Fernando, it was an honour to cook for them again.
The next day we sold out a 200-guest dinner at Cinnamon Lakeside in 2 hours flat. The event meant a late night but a wonderful opportunity to meet so many of my Sri Lankan supporters and fans – thank you all for coming to say g’day.
TEACHING AT WILLIAM ANGLISS
The William Angliss Hotel Management School is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka, its international acclaim and the focused ambition of its students will help Sri Lanka move into the next stage of high-class hotel management.
It is an amazing facility and its students are a credit to Sri Lanka.
The Masterclass was a day to give back – the Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka was represented by 15 of the best chefs in Sri Lanka in attendance. For me it was all about the kids, surrounded by so many years of experience you could tell they were in awe.
When I worked it out I was too – there was over 450 years of combined experience in that room!
Everyone joined in, I got the big chefs involved with the kids and we all laughed, cooked, learned and had fun.
Lanka Business Online quoted the High Commission saying, “The event was an opportunity for Peter Kuruvita to introduce the best of Australia’s world renowned fine, fresh gourmet produce to the hospitality trade.”
My long-time partner Petuna wanted to send the smoked ocean trout I’d requested as we’d used for the dinner but instead they only had fresh ocean trout available. I turned it into an impromptu fish smoking lesson!
I think the students of William Angliss inspired me as much as I did them, that’s what cooking is all about, learning and growing as you cook each dish.
THE DILMAH MEGA DINNER
Don’t think the biggest task had come and gone – next was the Dilmah Mega-Dinner – I designed a 7-course menu with 3-dishes in each course (how good is your math? That’s a 21-dish dinner!) and all paired, infused or matched with a tea.
What’s more is I was only given certain teas to work with rather than the extensive Dilmah range – it was a mahout task to say the least!
The 200 guests in attendance were Dilmah’s distributors and the president of the World Association of Chef Societies so, you know, no pressure…!
Every tea was poured at the table and the dessert was served with 3 teas plus a liquor. 4200 food dishes, 200 tea cocktails, 600 cups of hot tea, 200 chilled tea cocktails 200 hot tea cocktails, 200 shots of chilled infused tea and 400 shots of hot tea. If that wasn’t enough it finished with 200 tea cocktail of 4 varieties!
I could not have done it without this man, Robert Shinkle, Tea Mixologist extraordinaire, he is my co-ambassador partner at Dilmah events, he works his magic with the drinks while I create the dishes.