August 22, 2017

Team Cape – Sri Lanka’s Culinary Champions

To win a medal – any medal – at the World Athletics Championships that concluded in London this week takes years of training, intense concentration, skill and the utmost dedication.

Don’t for a minute think that the practice of the culinary art is any different. It’s not.

The years of training in a hot kitchen, learning complex recipes by heart and knowing how to judge the quality of ingredients are just some of the trainings that have to be undertaken by any chef worth his apron.

So when I learned that Cape Weligama chefs had been awarded one of the most prestigious honours in Sri Lankan cookery, it came as no surprise and gave me immense pleasure having eaten many of their superb dishes.

The Culinary Art and food Expo (organised by The Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka) is, without doubt, the pinnacle competition in the country attracting both local and international contestants. In fact, such is the prestige of the competition that it’s only held every 2 years. This years’ event was at BMICH at the end of July and was the first time that Chefs from Cape Weligama had participated.
It’s rather like being nominated for an Oscar for your first film.

And win they did!

Walking off with the top award of a Top Gold was W.Sanju Srilal Amarasingha for Vegetable Hot Cooking.

He was required to prepare & present an appetizer & main dish in just 60 minutes using vegetarian products. Two identical plates were presented of each dish. This required perfect timing, accurate cooking and artistic presentation.

Not only did the Cape Weligama team master the vegetable, but also cake.

Here R.P.Purna Nuwan won Gold medal to dress a cake base in a live situation in only 90 minutes. No easy task when you’re under pressure. And against strong competition.

I’ve eaten many dishes at Cape Weligama so it’s entirely possible I have already tasted the winning dish and savoured the cake.
Another worthy winner was S.K.K.Krishmal Harindra who was awarded a Bronze in the live hot cooking section.

This is perhaps the hardest section of all to participate in because it’s open to all including international chefs who have access to a wide range of facilities and ingredients.

All entrants are required to prepare and present a starter and main course in 60 minutes using only ingredients specified by the Chef’s Guild themselves. And no one knows what they will be in advance. This year it was Beef, Lamb and Duck so a fairly good choice to demonstrate their skill although the beef usually takes most of the available time to prepare.

To win one award is very special.

To win two is spectacular – especially when it’s the first time that Chefs from Cape Weligama have entered.

But let’s be honest. The cooking at Cape Weligama is consistently of the highest standards. It has to be because the guests both expect it and are used to savouring it elsewhere.

Entering prestigious competitions such as the Chefs Guild not only demonstrates a Chefs capabilities, but it also sharpens their skills – especially when under pressure.

Once we’ve seen a dish described on the menu, we expect it to be delivered not only to perfection, but also fairly quickly so the time pressures the participants are placed under simply puts them in the same situation as they would find themselves in when delivering their dishes to guests.

Perhaps one of the hidden benefits of participation is the opportunity to see other dishes being created and presented. For me, one of the treasures of Cape Weligama is the variety of dishes available so I’m personally pleased there will be an even greater variety in the future.

Of course, the other competitors will have the chance to ‘steal’ the Gold and Bronze entries as well!

Hats off to Cape Weligama’s Executive Chef and the entire team for their success. With award winners on their team we are all expecting even greater things. Although how they can improve on their current standards will be another challenge.