In early May 2008, nine top chefs from nine different countries travelled to Sri Lanka to meet the teamaker Merrill J. Fernando and to explore the diversity and limitless possibilities of tea and its terroir; and, of course, to cook with tea using it as an ingredient. This travel log documents their expeditions in the land of tea as they get acquainted with the provenance of the finest tea in the world. This is but just a beginning as they take their experience with tea back to the lands whence they came from to create something extraordinary using their talent and the surprising versatility of this simple herb.

2008 Tour Map

  • Day 01
    Dilmah Head Office, Peliyagoda


    The team of chefs travelled to Peliyagoda where the Dilmah head office and factory premises are located on the banks of the swiftly flowing Kelani River. At the end of the factory visit the team headed down South to a turtle hatchery in Kosgoda where they spent some time learning about conservation of turtles and making friends with these gentle creatures of the sea.

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  • Day 02
    Down South


    The 2nd day on tour was spent discovering the flavors of Southern Sri Lanka. From curd, which is a staple in any home down South and is served by the pot to the house-guests generous amounts of treacle, to juicy papaya, fresh from the tree .

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  • Day 03


    the MJF Centre for Traditional Arts & Crafts, Uda Walawe

    On their 3rd day on tour this is just what the chefs set out to create. Mankada – the MJF Centre for Traditional Arts and Crafts – was their destination. Mankada embodies all the charm of rustic, simple houses that dot the Sri Lankan countryside.

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  • Day 04
    Somerset Estate, Dimbula Valley


    The day 4 was the day for the team on tour to scale the slopes of the famous Somerset Estate. Situated in the Dimbula Valley on the Western slopes of the Central Hills of Sri Lanka at an altitude of 1402 – 1576 m above sea level; an old tea country that has been producing exquisite teas famous for their distinctive flavour since the 1870s.

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  • Day 05
    Tientsin Bungalow (Ceylon Tea Trails), Norwood


    The 5th day covered Tientsin, a high colonial bungalow with its glorious rooms and magnificent views. Built in 1888 and lying at an altitude of 4,600 feet the bungalow with its polished wooden floors, high ceilings and terraced gardens.

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  • Day 06
    Knuckles Range


    The team of chefs journeyed from the luxurious Tienstin to the windswept Knuckles Mountain Range the lush carpets of tea gave way to untamed hills with its arresting scenery and mysterious landscapes.

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  • Day 07
    MJF Kids, Peliyagoda


    The day team generously dedicated the day to the MJF Kids – a group of over 50 underprivileged children who are groomed and guided by the MJF Charitable Foundation so that they may dream of a brighter tomorrow. The chefs cooked with them, played with them and re-discovered the joy of bringing a smile to a child’s face.

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  • Day 08
    Lunch at Dilmah Founder’s House in Rajagiriya


    Back in Colombo with one more day to be spent in this emerald isle, the group gathered at the residence of their host Merrill J. Fernando – founder of Dilmah and one of the most respected teamakers in the world – for their farewell feast.

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Meet the Chefs

Damian started his career in the kitchens at the Brisbane Hilton. Upon completing his apprenticeship Damian began his travels to Europe. Amid travelling Damian worked at Bank, one of London’s hippest restaurants and Marriott County Hall. Whilst there, Damian competed in the prestigious cooking competition, the Academie Culinaire de France, and was one of just two finalists from South East England.

In 2000 Damian moved back to Sydney and worked at Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House and then Milsons. In 2002 he was awarded the Josephine Pignolet Award for Best Young Chef. In 2005 Damian joined Pony and is now their head chef. He is also a regular chef on Channel 10s “Ready, Steady, Cook”.

Chef David Pugh’s continual search for the best available fresh produce provides his inspiration and the basis of the menu at Restaurant Two. David is acclaimed for working rare and premium produce from carefully sourced suppliers. His use of classic technique combined with these fine ingredients and thoroughly modern flair are what place Restaurant Two at the forefront of contemporary Australian cuisine.

David is known for his down to earth attitude and approach to food. His love of cooking emerged at age eight when he would treat his parents to Sunday breakfast. Since then, David has worked with some of the world’s finest chefs, including a two year stint at London’s Connaught Hotel, drawing inspiration and skill from each and every encounter. Ten years ago David joined Michael at Two Small Rooms prior to putting in place their ‘ideal’ Restaurant Two.

In the United Kingdom Jason had the opportunity to work under David Thompson at the Michelin starred Nahm in London’s Halkin Hotel and also to work under Gordon Ramsay in his signature restaurant.

Upon his return to Canberra, he started working at Courgette with James Mussillon and nine months later was appointed as the Head Chef at Aubergine – one of Mussillon’s restaurants.

Jodie became the Head Chef of a ‘hatted’ restaurant at the age of 24. Commencing her apprenticeship at the age of 17 at MG Garage in Surry Hills, Jodie has had the privilege of working with some of Sydney’s most respected chefs.

Her passion for food and creativity is distinct in the seasonal menus she creates for Flying Fish.

Son of Sicilian parents, Chef Johnny Triscari was born in Perth and steeped in his family’s rural heritage. Triscari’s cooking has brought new life to the food at Chloe’s. Classically trained under the legendary pioneer of Italian fine dining in Perth, Chef Umberto Cipro, Triscari did his apprenticeship at the very famous Julio’s.

Triscari brings those refined cooking techniques and his own Italian heritage to the Chloe’s kitchen.

Paul Brown grew up in Tasmania and started his cooking career with a small hotel group. He moved to Sydney to finish his apprenticeship under Chef Andre Blake working for Melbourne’s famous Restaurateurs, the Staleys. Paul went on to start his own restaurant on the northern beaches of Sydney called Café for obscure Avalon painters. He ran this restaurant for seven years during which time modern Australian cuisine was the trend.

Paul was the Executive Chef of the Award winning Thredbo restaurant in New South Wales before becoming the Executive Chef of the Mantra Hotels.

Paul was born in Western Australia but developed his skills and love of fresh produce while growing up in Tasmania. He trained at highly respected Prossers on the Beach and Prospect House before returning briefly to Western Australia to join the team at Fraser’s in Kings Park. It was Paul’s time heading Restaurant Gondwana in Tasmania that led to his distinct style being born through experimentation and discipline. Paul’s focus remains on precise flavours with a European influence, matched with balanced combinations.

Paul Foreman’s menu executes the best produce Tasmania has to offer with an adventurous twist. A seasonal menu would not be complete without examples of Paul’s flair with crayfish, baby abalone, venison and ocean trout

Peter’s inspiration for his culinary masterpieces could be attributed to the collaborative cultural influences of his Austrian mother and Sri Lankan father.

Peter embarked on his career in cooking with a chef apprenticeship in 1979. After his first role as a commis chef at the One Star Michelin restaurant – Rue St Jacques in London, Peter returned to Sydney in early 1984 to take up the chef position at Barrenjoey House. During his tenure the restaurant was awarded a Sydney Morning Herald One Chef Hat rating.

Peter is regularly invited as a consultant on a range of new restaurant projects and also appears as guest chef in a range of leading hotels around the world. In April 2003 Peter returned to Sydney to open and run his own restaurant – Flying Fish.

Rhiannon grew up in the Victorian country, in an area where farming and fishing are plentiful, encouraging her to use fresh produce in her meals. Her interest in food and cooking can be traced back to her grandparents who are exceptional cooks of Hungarian descent.

Starting with a four year apprenticeship with Ian Hewitson at Tolarno Bar and Bistro, St Kilda, Rhiannon is now the pastry chef at Rockpool.

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