The sous-chef at luxury tea bungalow hotel Nine Skies tells Elly Earls about creating fresh, made-to-order dishes deep in Sri Lanka’s hill country
I found out about the job at Nine Skies through a friend. Previously I didn’t have much experience of working in boutique hotels, so when I arrived here my manager helped me a lot. Now I can handle whatever’s thrown at me, no problem.
We are a total of six people working in the kitchen and we serve the guests in five bedrooms, so the maximum number of diners is 10.
Our Sri Lankan curries are very popular. These are cooked in clay pots; it’s the only way to get the real taste of our cuisine. A typical chicken curry would be flavoured with curry powder, chilli powder, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, curry leaves and plenty of herbs. We make our curries mostly with coconut milk, except if a guest doesn’t like it. Whatever they want, we can make it for them.
We get good comments from our customers about our tuna and steaks, which I cook in a non-stick steel pan. For the pan-seared tuna, we take a 200g portion and marinate it with our secret seasoning and some lemon juice.
After that, I heat it up very hot in the pan with just a little oil and cook it to the customer’s preference. It comes with garlic, lime and chilli rice. Those three flavours go together nicely; it’s delicious.
All of our vegetables come from our own vegetable garden. We also make our jams and marmalades in this kitchen and the cakes and cookies for afternoon tea. It usually includes a slice of cake, scones and two kinds of cookies, but our pastry chef can also make a special afternoon tea for guests with dietary requirements.
We’ve only been operating a few months, but so far everything has gone smoothly, which I put down to good communication. My favourite place to be is the kitchen; given the choice, I’d be here all the time.