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All things food with Chef Rashen John

By Nuskiya Nasar

 

Being a chef isn’t an easy profession. Sure, chefs get a lot of love from the public, but there’s more to the job than judging stints on TV and product endorsements. 

It takes hard work, dedication, and a passion for food to make it as a chef. This week, The Sunday Morning Happinez spoke to one such professional chef who gave us the insider scoop on what it really means to work in one of the busiest industries.

 

Tell us a little about yourself and your food philosophy.

 

I currently work at Verse Collective in Hiriketiya as the Head Chef. 

Over the past year, my approach to food has changed. At the moment, my attention is on simple, real, and wholesome food.

 

Being a chef is a notoriously challenging career, and anyone who enters into it knows that they’ll have to constantly be on their toes, satisfying billions of taste buds. Beyond the challenge, what drove you to become a chef?

 

It gives a chef a certain amount of satisfaction to see happy customers. This makes the job challenging yet worthwhile, and every day is a new experience.

 

Describe your management style and tell us about the ways you support junior staff members who experience stress during peak hours.

 

No job is beneath anyone in the hospitality industry. This is my ethos. I am ready to get down and dirty with my team. I will always help my junior chefs, but with some tough love, of course! We are food handlers and we can’t take mistakes lightly. 

I am also a perfectionist. Some of my chefs would describe me as eccentric at times, but what chef isn’t?

 

What’s one of the most difficult situations you’ve ever faced in the kitchen and how did you handle it?

 

Working in Sri Lanka through the bombings, Covid-19, and the economic crisis; it’s been back-to-back. For a country that promotes tourism, basic supplies are scarce, good chefs have left the country, and overheads have skyrocketed. It’s been heartbreaking at times, but perhaps I am being stupidly optimistic; I am not ready to give up on Sri Lanka just yet.

 

Preparing a tasty dish with both high quality and reasonable quantity can cost a pretty penny. How do you ensure high quality food is prepared to your management’s expectations?

 

The process of developing new meals includes a lot of back and forth between management and the kitchen. Before approving a dish, we examine, taste, and evaluate the prices.

If diners are external customers, then management is our internal customer. I try to meet their needs first. 

 

How do you approach modifying dishes for dietary restrictions?

 

Honestly, chefs dread improvising like this! Because we end up making a strange, substandard substitute for the real food. Common courtesy dictates you give a heads-up when making a reservation. We can accommodate these restrictions better and perhaps even make a new dish altogether. 

 

What would you do if a customer sends back a meal?

 

If within reason, we will make sure the dish is redone to their expectations.

 

A well-known saying goes that ‘a good chef has to be a manager, a businessman, and a great cook’. What’s your opinion on this? 

 

This is real, especially if you are an executive chef. You are the heart and soul of a place of business. You must take care of every detail – profitability, employee well-being, upkeep, and of course, food quality.

 

PHOTOS © YESH RUWANPURA, RASHEN JOHN