Chef of the Week: Chef Priyantha of Soneva Jani
Chef Priyantha is the Head Chef at The Crab Shack at Soneva Jani, a luxury resort in the Maldives. He grew up on a diet of lagoon crabs in Sri Lanka and now serves a menu inspired by his family recipes.
We talked to Chef Priyantha about Sri Lankan cuisine, his fantastic career and his current work at Soneva Jani.
What inspired you to become a Chef?
My mother is the biggest inspiration for me. My mother used to own a small restaurant with all of the famous local Sri Lankan delicacies. I grew up surrounded by these unique flavors.
Her passion, love, and dedication for both her family and fine food led me to this amazing career. I treat the guests visiting Crab Shack like my family!
Where did you train to cook? Do you recommend formal training for someone who wants to become a chef (i.e. culinary school)?
I graduated from NAB training school for chefs. An opportunity to learn the technical skills required to be a world-class chef. However, the only place to build on this qualification is in the kitchen. Working with passionate chefs with a diverse range of skills, influences, and ideas all add to my style and experiences.
Tell us a bit about traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. What defines it and what are some of the most popular Sri Lankan dishes?
Sri Lankan cuisine has been shaped by many historical, geographical and cultural influences. We have some popular dishes like rice and curry which you may be familiar with. However, there are many unique flavors to be found – fish ambul thiyal (sour fish curry), hoppers (appa), seafood and mud crab specialties like the Sri Lankan chili crab. Not to forget the famous Sri Lankan love cake.
In Sri Lanka, we are surrounded by a diverse range of the freshest mountain and garden produce as well as 360 degrees of ocean! A wide range of flavors to influence our cuisine.
What was your inspiration for the menu at the Crab Shack?
A celebration of the crab! An ingredient used extensively in Sri Lanka. An opportunity to showcase this special ingredient’s array of styles and flavors.
The humble crab! The location is inspirational. A relaxed environment that reminds me of my childhood – meals enjoyed on the beach, feet in the sand, surrounded by loved ones. The perfect location for a Crab Shack culinary journey!
What is the most popular dish at Soneva’s Crab Shack?
The classics! Chili crab and pepper crab.
Soneva is all about exquisite fine dining experience. What makes it so special?
The team and I are here to create unique, rare and memorable dining experiences that are filled with heartfelt love! A beach dining experience like no other.
Where do you source your produce and ingredients for Soneva? Can you please provide some specific examples?
The Crab Shack celebrates the freshest of Sri Lankan Ingredients, many of which are sourced directly from farms. We use traditional Sri Lankan spices and Sri Lankan mud crab sourced from farmers across the country. When I visit my home, I am inspired by visiting the farmers and experiencing new flavors.
You worked in the past at many top Sri Lankan resorts. How would you compare?
Soneva is very special and cannot be compared. The opportunity to allow our ideas to become a reality. Where passion and excellence is appreciated.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a top chef?
Whatever you do, do it from the depth of your heart. This allows you to share the true love of your cooking. Hard work and love lead to great things and make dreams come true. The Crab Shack is a dream come true!