Name: Nihal Senanayake
Occupation: Executive Chef, Jetwing Lighthouse
Hometown: Kodagoda, Galle
A chef from Galle who only wishes to do justice to our unique Sri Lankan cuisine.
01. Tell us a little about your career as a chef.
I started as a trainee assistant cook at Berjaya Mount Royal, as it was known back then. After that I worked at Galadari as a junior cook where I got to work with French chefs for eight years and I learned a lot in the process. I also went abroad and gained more experience. When I returned to Sri Lanka, there was a job waiting for me at Galadari, which I took up. Once I’d gained more experience, I wanted to manage a kitchen by myself so I joined Fishermen’s Villa, a restaurant in Colombo for two years. Following that I joined Jetwing Lighthouse as their Head Chef. I have worked at a lot of places and every opportunity along the way has been a wonderful and challenging learning curve.
02. What inspired you to become a chef?
After my A Levels I knew I really didn’t want to go into a corporate job. I wanted to do something that I will truly enjoy doing and I have always loved to cook from a young age, especially Sri Lankan dishes with my own personal twist.
03. What is your favourite signature dish?
Hands down my prawn tempura. I have constantly tweaked it along the years having incorporated a fusion of Sri Lankan and western flavours. I usually receive a great response to it.
04. How do you feel about fusing Sri Lankan and Western flavours?
I love our Sri Lankan spices and our cuisine. An ingredient that I always find myself using is cinnamon and I also make sure to always use local ingredients and produce as much as possible and then add a western touch to my dishes instead of the other way around – to make it different and unique. But the base is and always will be Sri Lankan.
05. What are the positive/negative changes, if any, you have observed around Galle?
It has actually developed a great deal over the years. There are a lot of international hotel chains that are taking over now and that means the quality of the hotel/tourism industry increases. Plus there are a lot of new businesses that are coming up. Galle is not too sophisticated and I hope it doesn’t become so. I don’t want Galle to lose that old world charm because that’s where her beauty lies and is why so many people visit us, I feel.
06. What do you like about Sri Lanka?
I love everything about Sri Lanka. It’s my motherland and I love working for it.
07. What do you dislike about Sri Lanka?
There is nothing I don’t like. It’s a good place to live in.
08. What is your favourite Sri Lankan food and drink?
Our traditional rice and curry of course and I like fresh juice made from the Kirala fruit.