Hot Cooks Cool Kitchens

I am The Gourmand. LT’s food critic of over 4 years. I confess that for the longest time, I have been bored. Boredom is a disastrous disposition if your professional interest is in food, because in Sri Lanka you can easily run out of dining options.

The Gourmand

Then LT came knocking again, forcing me to think outside the box. We all know the F & B Masters in town and that’s why some restaurants continue to be well patronised, while the 5-star hotels seem packed to the rafters on weekends. Yet there is nothing new here of late. The chefs and proprietors behind the more established restaurants and hotel kitchens have tried and tested formulae of success. Hence we all keep going to the same restaurants over and over again.

But when I say “we all keep going to the same restaurants”, I perhaps should start by rethinking who I mean when I say “We all”. We used to be the grumpy old guard of Colombo’s entertainment and dining scene, but now many of us, myself included, are losing touch with reality. It’s no wonder we are jaded, with a host of TV reality shows upping the ante and pressuring the eager to please home chef. Worse than that, social media pundits post one sensual photo of food after another. Dining out carries a different snob value these days, and the food is dressed up to compete on social media. In this regard, Sri Lanka still has some way to go.

Surrounded by fancy photography of elaborate dishes, I shudder back to my usual haunts and settle for consistency. But with this challenge from LT and their considerable recommendations on a more vibrant F & B offering away from the mainstream, I have had to widen my horizons. I am grateful for the experience, because my dining options have expanded tremendously in the last two weeks, in my search for LT’s culinary rising stars.

As I said, I am The Gourmand. I make my own rules. In selecting LT’s HOT Cooks, I imposed 4 strict criteria:

  1. Flavour – I don’t care what it looks like (at this stage in your career)
  2. Concept – Don’t fusion-confuse me
  3. Consistency – If the newbies can outlast their insta-media hype
  4. Freshness – It’s not just about fresh produce it’s also about storage

Selecting 10 culinary rising stars was not an easy task, one that myself and a panel of advisors gave much contemplation to in finalising our Top 10 Hot Cooks.

But I am satisfied beyond measure. Perhaps one or two of them won’t last the distance, but I have a feeling most will. LT’s producers on this issue also considered the attitude of each chef we featured, their range of dishes and the levels of their individual expertise. I can quite easily conclude that if these chefs were to leave their present establishments, the substance will leave with them because only they can execute their signature flavour profiles. Each chef or cook respects their flavours, while still showing varying degrees of innovation. I am no longer bored of eating out in Sri Lanka.

Then there are “The Ones To Watch”. These Cool Kitchens are heading in an exciting direction and I am delighted to feature them here. I did not limit the numbers, these are the 6 who I believe have the talent and style to keep climbing, taking Sri Lanka’s food evolution along with it.

There are many chefs/cooks that I have left out here, but perhaps that is because their stars are not rising, or they think I won’t know if the food prep is lacking freshness having sat in fridges ready-made for over a week. It’s a shame really because these days everyone is a food critic and if you take a shortcut, you will be the last to know that you didn’t get away with it. Until you look around your empty restaurant.

I hope you enjoy LT’s Hot Cooks and The One’s To Watch. They are the game changers and their talent is exciting to eat.

To all those featured here: you earned your place in my heart which is directly connected to my stomach. Congratulations.