Curry Vita! Q&A with chef Peter Kuruvita
Sit down with Noosa local Peter Kuruvita and his insights in to his inspiration for cooking.
Name: Peter Kuruvita
Position: Chef, Restaurateur, Author, TV presenter
Restaurant: Noosa Beach House Peter Kuruvita, Noosa Heads
Why did you decide to be a chef?
I left school at 15 and my father suggested it because I loved cooking with my grandmother and aunties at home in Sri Lanka. He was right, I’ve loved my job for the past 40 years.
Where have you worked and what are some of your career highlights?
A very long list! I have worked in hotels and restaurants around the world. My first stand-alone restaurant was Avalon at Bondi, a small eclectic restaurant in the heart of Bondi Beach. I was executive chef of Hayman Island for three years achieving all the food and beverage accolades in the tourism awards for six hotel restaurants. I owned and ran Sydney’s Flying Fish restaurant for 10 years; two restaurants in Fiji for 10 years; and I have achieved and maintained chef’s hats continuously over three decades. My move to Noosa has given us one hat in the AGFG for the past five years, as well as Best Restaurant in the Queensland Hospitality Awards. All up, I have collected over 30 chefs hats. I have been lucky enough to produce five TV cooking shows which are shown in more than 50 countries and proudly released three cookbooks. As culinary ambassador for Dilmah Tea I travel the world and go into many kitchens which is great because I work with chefs on a global scale and never stop learning. I am very lucky, but also work very hard.
Why do you love being a chef?
Ingredients excite me, as do chefs who are excited about the craft we are in. Every day is different – the guests, produce and team. It is an exciting and ever-changing career to be in, limited only by your output and determination.
What is your approach to food?
Fresh light, local regional with a twist of Sri Lankan and seafood.
Name your favourite local producers
Mooloolah River Risheries, for great seafood that is local and seasonal; Rockliff seafoods, for spanner crab and local scallops; Noosa Reds tomatoes; Noosa Earth mushrooms; Viande Meats; Wild Forage Australia; Suncoast Fresh vegetables; Markris Foods.
Is it important to use local produce?
Yes! We are part of Noosa Slow Food and have been awarded the Snail of Approval. We love our local produce and producers. The great thing about our region is that there are so many passionate producers and you don’t have to look too far to create a great localised menu.
Most rewarding career moment?
Opening the first Empower Culinary Centre, a charity cooking college for underprivileged kids in Sri Lanka. Another one opens next year. Last year one of the graduates won the Bocouse D’or, one of the most prestigious cooking competitions in the world.
Who is your culinary inspiration?
My career goes a long way back and has evolved from the great chefs of France of the 70s and 80s; to Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter in the 90s; Raymond Blanc, Marco Pierre White and so many modern chefs. Peter Gilmore and Ross Lusted are up there for their passion, determination and creativity. There are too many to list.
Do you cook at home?
Yes I do, I cook everything at home from experimental dishes for my other jobs; my kitchen at home cooks for the family but is also a test kitchen.
Who do you love to cook for?
My family and our guests.
Highlights off your latest menu?
Our head chef at Noosa Beach House Shaun Dejeet has really embraced the Sri Lankan side of the food and has crafted dishes that taste authentic and are beautiful to look at. I love the Butter-poached Noosa Spanner Crab with Jaffna curry sauce and pumpkin puree. It is a great fusion of local produce and my Sri Lankan heritage.
What is your favourite kitchen tool?
My Shun Knives and coconut scraper.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Curry leaves and spices.