In our “Rendezvous with chef” segment we would like to introduce the executive chef from Bon South; Mr. Manu R Nair. He gave an exclusive interview to Plattershare editor Almaas Khan at the mind blowing Raavan’s Kitchen: Sri Lankan Food Festival. Hailing from Kerala, Mr. Nair has a passion for food arising from his love for experimenting with different cuisines, keeping fusion at the center of everything. Raavan’s Kitchen is no different. Here we got a little personal with the chef, what he loves most about food and his opinions on the changing food trends and the love for food that the Indian youth shares.
Photo Credit: Bon South, Chef’s Creation – Brinjal Pickle.
- Tell us a little about yourself and how you came into the food industry
I come from Kerala but was brought up in Pune. I lived there my whole life. I started my career with ITC limited and worked with them for almost 7 and a half years. After that, I’ve been with Bon South and it’s almost been 5 years. This was my first venture into the food/restaurant industry.
I work as the corporate executive chef, and we have three types of restaurants; Bon South, SouthIndies, and Up South. The former two are fine dining restaurants, while Up South is more of a casual food place.
- So, why Sri Lankan?
I have been personally trained under Sri Lankan chefs for quite some time. That’s how I know all that I do about Sri Lankan cuisine, and also why I love it so much. I have extensive experience in and lots of expertise regarding the Sri Lankan cuisine, all thanks to the master chefs who I have seen experimenting with the Lankan cuisine. It inspired me to do Raavan’s Kitchen.
- So, you’ve obviously been to Sri Lanka. What did you personally pick up from there?
I do extensive research for every cuisine. In order to successfully do that, I visit the country or state we are focusing on. I personally tried to understand their food, how it’s made, the spices they use, and everything very native to that particular place. If I’m lucky enough to find a chef, I do bring them back and utilize their expertise to recreate the cuisine. Sri Lankan street food is something that’s absolutely delicious and should not be missed!
I also had the chance to meet Chef Peter Kuruvita and dine with him at his restaurant. What intrigued me most is that no one else has done a food festival showcasing the Lankan cuisine.
Photo Credit: Bon South, Chef’s Creation – Devilled Wings
- What do you think excites people about Sri Lankan food?
Well, we haven’t changed a lot of things. They continue to remain the same, but we only presented the traditional in a more modern manner. For me, it’s about the youngsters and the youth. What do they like? What do they want in the food they eat? I feel that if we can get the youth’s attention, any cuisine can become global and be as recognized as the western cuisines. Also, there needs to be some “Indianisation” that needs to happen. It’s very difficult for anyone to accept a cuisine that’s vastly different, so I strive for a balance in the food I present.
- Finally, what are some of your favourite cuisines and recipes?
Ok for me, my favourite cuisine is going to be Kerala food since I’m a Keralite. I absolutely love each Keralite dish, starting from prawns to fish to mutton. I’m a huge fan of vegetarian food despite my love for non-veg. I’m a chef so I get the chance to keep trying out different ways of cooking and presenting, so it makes the process exciting for me. When I go home, I like to have a simple home-cooked, vegetarian meal. In Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the vegetarian food is given a lot of preference, including the Iyengar cuisine which is veg-centric. All of this energizes me and makes me want to try more and more, and makes me love food even more!
Photo credit: Bon South, Chef’s creation – Prawn Sampol Kokis.