Chef of the Week: Chanaka Fernando – Buddha Bar – London

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
4 years.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I started working in a family catering business back in Sri Lanka when I was 15. Then completed 3 years at hotel school in Colombo . I moved to London when I was 19 and gained NVQ level 1, 2 qualifications from the Asian and Oriental School of catering in Hackney. I worked my way up the chef ladder by working under such celebrity chefs as Gordon Ramsey, Marcus Wareing, Mark Hix, Allan Williams, Lee Streeton, Sujan Sarkar.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I can really live out my creativity when creating new dishes. At the same time I enjoy the team management side of the job too. Also, I enjoy helping to set up new businesses and supporting/training young chefs.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Good quality oils, garlic, onions.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Stove & oven.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
More and more people are health conscious and look for healthy meals with fresh ingredients. Classic dishes are often tweaked, and all chefs / restaurants are trying to come up with creative ideas to create their signature dish. Also have to be very aware of possible allergens.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
No consistency in quality (not creating/following accurate recipes).

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Xmas and New years eve as food budgets are higher and we can experience with more expensive high quality ingredients.

But I love spring, summer and autumn just as well due to having different fresh ingredients available to create new dishes.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
For last Xmas season I created a main course which was truffle baked king-crab leg covered in edible gold and a fennel and orange salad and lemon. Another of my favourite was Roast fillet of halibut with seagreen puree,  caviar and beluga lentils and saffron lobster sauce.

How do you come up with new dishes?
First you need to know your potential market/consumers.  Once I select the ingredients and decide about costing I visualise the outcome in a kind of “meditation” process.

Who was your greatest influence?
Marcus Wareing.

Tell us three chefs you admire: Marcus Wareing, Gordon Ramsay, Sujan Sarkar.

What is your favourite cookbook? Charitable Bookings – Signature Dish.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months? Marcus Wareing.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year? Davies and Brook in Mayfair.