He was all of 12 when he cooked his first Sashimi dish with live prawns! “My childhood was spent in Japan so pulling a live fish out of a tank and cooking it in a pan was very normal for us,” says Chef Dharshan Munidasa to HotFridayTalks.
Dharshan Munidasa is an acclaimed chef now, but it all started with a twist of fate, albeit a cruel one when he lost his father suddenly, this natural chef’s original plans of becoming a computer engineer after graduating from a university in the USA, unfortunately, remained just a dream.
Dharshan had to move back to Sri Lanka from the USA after his father’s death. Darshan’s father was a Srilankan while his mother is a Japenese, so he along with his mother came up with the idea of starting a small simple Japanese restaurant. That’s when his first restaurant, Nihonbashi was born. Nihonbashi meaning bridge in Japanese, specialises in Japanese cuisine. Today it’s one of the most popular restaurants in Colombo. “It’s 23 years old now,” informs Dharshan proudly.
But like Dharshan says, all of that did not come easy, he tells us that it has been a journey of trying to get stuff better. He says, “I was not happy with some of the dishes so I made changes along the way. It’s been a journey of trying stuff.”
Today, Dharshan is recognised as one of Asia’s most celebrated chefs, with a slew of restaurants to his credit. He went on to open The Tuna & the Crab, a hybrid Japanese and seafood restaurant, and Kaema Sutra, in partnership with actress Jacqueline Fernandez. Kaema Sutra’s main focus is contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine. Ministry of Crab another one of his restaurants, which is a crab lovers’ haven, is the place where he first met Jacqueline Fernandez.
He invited Jacqueline to try his Japanese restaurant and also mentioned to her about how he was going to meet potential partners. “Jackie was to return to Mumbai from Sri Lanka and before that, I asked her to come and try my Japanese restaurant. I also mentioned to her that I was going to meet potential partners to start another restaurant and that’s how the idea of the partnership came up,” he added.
Dharshan tells us that before he met Jacqueline, he was thinking of doing a TV show and calling it Kaema Sutra, but as fate would have it he’s now opened a restaurant by that name! He owes his love for cooking to his love for good food. He says, “I would always want something nice to eat and I guess my interest in food was strong.”
What makes his restaurants stand apart is the fact that he believes in using only fresh ingredients. They follow a no freezer policy and use fresh local produce at all their restaurants. Another thing Dharshan strongly believes in is that one should spend time getting good ingredients and keeping things simple.
Besides running his restaurants, Dharshan has also launched his own green juice which utilizes Gotukola as its primary ingredient. Gotukola juices and the various methods of preparation have been a part of Sri Lanka’s ancient traditions. Dharshan’s Gotukola drink is named Centella after its scientific name and contains no water, no added sugars or sweeteners. Besides that he tells us that it also has great health benefits; “ It aids memory and also deals with anti-aging,” says Dharshan.
From having absolutely no formal training to opening some of the best restaurants, it makes one wonder if all the formal training is actually necessary. Dharshan answers our question,”What formal training does is only polishes your passion but if you don’t have that passion then it doesn’t really help much. Like they say, everyone can cook, only a few become chefs!”
We absolutely second that Chef!