Chef Rakitha Anuradha Wijesiriwardana of the award-winning restaurant Noire at Fairmont Dubai lets us into his world where he is whips up extraordinary flavour profile combinations for us to try (in the dark). He tells us what he sees in the future of fine dining and what drives him to create memorable dining experiences for his guests.
Experimental dining is a big trend. What is the future of Avant Garde dining?
Molecular gastronomy and experimental cookery is currently trending. Future avant garde will be something extraordinary and I can’t wait to see which new untried ideas people will come up with. I think it is a part of the human condition. We are always looking for the next big thing. Searching curiously for new ideas and stimulation, while ironically also craving the familiar and comfortable. I think the same could be said for the culinary world. We want to aspire to new frontiers; bringing diners something out of the ordinary and, most importantly, memorable.
What is the one must have kitchen spice that you cannot live without?
Coriander powder. It has a sweetness with a hint of citrus. Being mild, it is very versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. I love its aromatics. Definitely a must.
Why did you become a chef?
Obviously, like all boys, while I was growing up I dreamt of something adventurous. Like a pilot, or an astronaut. Typical young boy’s dreams. However, once I understood what my father did, I completely changed my mind. He worked in hospitality and would always keep our family entertained with his amusing anecdotes. He inspired and taught me that adventure can be found in the most unexpected places.
What was the first dish you cooked that made you proud?
Devilled chicken. That was the meal I first cooked for my family back when I was 14 years old. Of course, they were very nice and complimentary, so I never believed them. But over the years, once they started going back for seconds, I truly started to have confidence in the fact that they liked what I was making, and that gave me a confidence boost.
Was food important to you growing up? Were you naturally curious about experimenting with various ingredients?
Food is the centre point of our lives. All culinary elements have innate characteristics that play a role in each dish. Some come to the fore and capture our attention quickly. Others are in the background. Their presence is equally crucial to the structure and final outcome of the dish yet these guys may remain the unsung heroes. Their exceptional characteristics, flavours and textures lending themselves to contemporary experimentation. There are the classics that will always be preferred but there are still frontiers in taste and composition to be discovered. I love cooking for my friends and family by combining unusual ingredients; enabling me to push my limits and see what I can create. The kitchen becomes my laboratory. A place to be playful and experiment.
How long have you been working at restaurant Noire?
The past year working at Noire has been immensely rewarding. Each week I am challenged to come up with a new menu and fresh ideas which is challenging, but that definitely keeps you thinking one step ahead.
The menus are changed weekly at Noire. What inspires you?
I love the challenge of innovating and creating new food items for our guests. Working with and combining different textures and flavours. I want to provoke our diner’s palettes. Trick their senses; leave them guessing. Take them in a direction that they never thought possible. If my diners have that experience then I am satisfied.
What is an ingredient that you enjoy using right now?
Foie Gras is a playful ingredient that you can experiment with. Adding different flavors and changing up the textures. So, it lends itself to a variety of dishes. Something unexpected.
What are you top 5 experimental restaurants in the world?
Noma in Copenhagen under the steerage of Rene Redzepi is making huge strides in the realms of Scandi gastronomy. His clean and unfussy style is brought to the fore using foraging. He personally sometimes goes out and finds the freshest ingredients himself. Incorporating them into his dishes. This is not just about sourcing but picking botanicals, herbs or mushrooms straight from the field and then bring them straight to the table.