From his introduction into the culinary world to some of his most exciting projects, TV celebrity chef and restauranteur, Peter Kuruvita reveals how his passion for food has developed and why travel has enhanced his passion and appreciation for cuisine.
Where did you get your start in the culinary world? Had you always had an interest in culturally inspired cooking or did something trigger it?
I spent a lot of time with the women of my family in our ancestral home in Sri Lanka, which was the precursor. Then I had a year at the school of Home Science, followed by my father suggesting that I should walk into our local seafood restaurant and ask for a job. I loved it from the minute I started, which was the very same day.
What was your first big break on food TV? How were you discovered?
Television was a slow growth, it started with best spots on Fresh with Jeff Janz, a short insight video for Qantas and then people kept saying that I came across really well. So I put my hand up for any opportunity.
The TV shows were a lot harder to get over the line, especially the first. The discovery process was more like hat in hand and going to all the TV strains saying we had a great idea and whether they want to shoot it.
You’ve had a couple of TV series where you travel to Mexico, Sri Lanka and South East Asia to explore the culture and the food of the region. How important is the journey when you're trying new foods?
I always find it strange when people go to other countries and really don’t get into the cuisine, food is such a major part of everyone's DNA and if you really want to understand a country or even a community the best way is through their food.
What sparked your interest to travel? How do you decide which countries you visit, or what inspires you to travel to a specific place?
I have traveled since the age of four. My parent took us one of the most adventurous trips around in 1969, we went from London to Colombo overland. This journey was always a conversation piece at our dinner table, people were and still in awe of that journey and the adventure that we had along the way.
When I walked into my first job I recall thinking to myself that I will use a third of all the money I earn on travel, and I did. Every year I would take all four weeks of my holidays and travel to another country. I am still doing it now.
How important a part does food play in your travel experience? What drives your curiosity to try different foods?
Being a chef, this is every more amplified. I always am looking smelling and tasting things, so when I travel there is little I do not eat. Like I mentioned before, food is the culture, it is what everyone talks about. It is not just food but it is the identity of a country.
How does culture reflect the food and vice versa?
They have never been separated, they are totally intertwined. It makes up part of the culture and mindset of a country, a sense of pride about the national dishes.
What has been the most memorable cultural experience you've had travelling around the world?
There are many: Easter with the raramuri of Mexico, fishing with the Fijian villagers, cooking with my grandmother in our ancient kitchen, making sausages with Filipino chefs, cooking on the edge of an erupting volcano. My life is food so I have had thousands of amazing food experiences.
What are some of the best recipes you've made while on a trip overseas, and why?
I write new recipes all the time, my role with Dilmah ensures that I create 50-100 new recipes using tea a year. Recipes can be inspired by many things but being in situ and going to the market inspires me the most, see an ingredient and then create the dish.
What are the essential ingredients in Sri Lankan cooking?
Fresh spices, good ingredients and a passion for flavour, a trip to Sri Lanka would also help, because once you have tasted the food. You will realise it is not Indian or any other type of curry, it is uniquely Sri Lankan.
What is the highlight for travellers on your ‘My Sri Lanka’ tour?
Being totally immersed in real Sri Lankan life. I believe that as the country emerges and more people travel there, the experiences start to become similar. I offer a different perspective and a refreshingly unique view of my ancestral home. I love taking them to the markets and introducing them to people I know, handing someone a piece of fruit they have never tasted or showing them an ingredient they are unfamiliar with.
Want to join Peter on his next culinary adventure?
Experience the food and cultural wonders of a destination with TV personality Peter Kuruvita on his next culinary tour. From street food and egg hoppers to tea inspired dinners at some of Sri Lanka's finest dining establishments to the exceptional seafood that defines Tasmania's cuisine, Peter will take you behind the scenes.
It's a must for lovers of food, culture and spice!