In early May 2010, twelve top chefs from twelve 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.

2010 Tour Map

  • Day 01
    Dilmah Head Office, Peliyagoda


    12 chefs from 10 different countries. A teamaker whose passion is exploring the limitless variety found in tea. The perfect combination to embark on a tea culinary adventure against the backdrop of a tea country that is as dramatic as it is spectacular. The 2nd Chefs and the Teamaker programme commenced today with a tasting session at the Dilmah premises in Peliyagoda.

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  • Day 02


    The 2nd day on tour was spent in Negombo – a bustling town well-known for golden beaches, nightlife and, most importantly for our team of chefs, a thriving fishing industry..

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  • Day 03
    Rilhena, Sabaragamuwa Province


    Day 3 on tour packed a punch with a host of exciting stops. The first stop was Rilhena Estate situated near Pelmadulla town in the Sabaragamuwa Province where the team experienced the production of traditional cinnamon. The team later stopped at Mankada for lunch where an extensive collection of Sri lankan spices wereon display

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  • Day 04


    They started the 4th day on tour with a feeding session at the Elephant Transit Home in Uda Walawe.  Perhaps, the playful baby elephants jostling greedily for more than their share of milk was a reminder of the lunch rush at the restaurants back home. After the feed the team headed South-East to Buttala.

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  • Day 05
    Subhagya School for the Visually Handicapped Children, Monaragala


    The team of chefs on tour met a very special group of children on the 5th day on tour when they visited the Subhagya School for the Hearing and Visually Impaired Children in Kubukkana, Monaragala. They spent the better part of the day chatting, laughing and playing cricket with these special little ones.

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  • Day 06
    Hill Club, N’Eliya


    The Hill Club in Nuwara Eliya, a gracious private resort that still retains the formality of an old gentlemen’s club was the venue for the night. It boasts a fairly expansive private vegetable garden and the chefs spent the morning picking their harvest for the night’s feast. 

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  • Day 07
    Somerset Estate, Dimbula Valley


    After spending 6 days of experimenting with tea to fuse new flavour in to food and drinks it was time for the chefs to experience firsthand what actually happens before the tea is packed into a neat little bags and put on a supermarket shelf. Somerset Estate where the chefs spent day 7 lies on the Western slopes of the Central Hill of Sri Lanka, set deep in the iconic Dimbula Valley . It is what you would call the heart of Sri Lankan tea country.

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  • Day 08
    Tea Trails, Hatton


    On the 8th day on tour, the team visited a plantation school supported by MJF Charitable Foundation at Somerset Estate. The children and visitors alike were full of smiles and eager to share their delight. It was apparent that love and kindness knew no boundaries and didn’t need words to be understood. Overnight stay was at Tienstin where the grand old planter’s life was re-lived accompanied by luxurious modern conveniences.

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  • Day 09


    A day on the move, the team started the descent from the quiet, misty hills to the noise and crowds of Colombo. Kandy, which was the last kingdom of Sri Lanka where they stopped en-route was a fusion of old world charm, quaint markets and the bustling throngs. Next followed a bit of tender loving care for some at the hands of an expert ayurveda practitioner. Ayurveda is an ancient healing art that uses various herbs and oils for curing illnesses as well to promote general wellness.

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  • Day 10


    The team of chefs on tour, picky when it comes to selecting ingredient for those marvelous culinary creations they are famous for, were invited to taste the products produced and marketed by Forbes & Walker Fine Foods. F&W Fine Foods offers the gourmets around the world fresh, high quality produce such as gherkin, asparagus and cashew as well as an interesting selection of pickled vegetables.

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  • Day 11


    Day before the last day on tour. The team spent a busy day at the Hilton kitchen in preparation for the next night’s special dinner for Dilmah partners. It was a rare treat to watch all these star class chefs under one roof, doing what they love the best. After all, they know that way to anyone’s heart is through food.

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Meet the Chefs

  • Bernd’s culinary journey began when he walked into a commercial kitchen 50 years ago. In his span of 50 years in the industry Bernd has worked passionately as a chef de Cuisine in many establishments. He has also owned two very successful restaurants and now teaches commercial cookery at various institutes in Melbourne.

    Born in Australia, Chef Alan Orreal has lived and worked in Asia for much of his 25 years in the culinary industry, which included stints in a variety of establishments ranging from five-star hotels, airline catering, and fine dining restaurants in Singapore, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Australia. His style of cuisine which can only be described as modern global cuisine is a reflection his dynamic and borderless outlook to his profession.

    Bernd is the recipient of many culinary awards, the most prestigious being the Sidney Taylor Memorial Black Hat Award, issued by the Australian Culinary Federation, Victoria. Only Chefs who have made outstanding contributions to Australian culinary progress and development at the highest trade or professional level receive this honour.

    Over the past 25 years Bernd has been invited to judge many culinary competitions, including being the international judge for Gulfood, Dubai, Melbourne Culinary Challenge and the Dilmah Real High Tea and Tea Sommelier competitions in collaboration with the Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka and endorsed by the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) at Culinary Art, 2003, 2005 & 2007.

    Innovative and entrepreneurial chef Simon Gault started as an apprentice chef at Antoines in Parnell – just the first in a string of top restaurants in New Zealand and Europe where he gained invaluable and varied experience. More recently he has been involved in running several

    high profile New Zealand Restaurants and is currently starring as a judge on TV One’s Master Chef New Zealand. When Kevin Roberts the CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi World Wide was asked what his favourite recipe was, he replied “Simon Gault’s telephone number”.

    Frank is the owner and Chef of Umoja Food, a unique fine dining restaurant in the Netherlands which he started in 2006. Prior to this he started two famous restaurants in Amsterdam – the Daisy Café and Lancelot.

    Frank is an entrepreneur who considers sustainability as a key priority in his field. Umoja is the first carbon-neutral restaurant in the Netherlands, investing in

    renewable energy and forestry projects. Frank won the award for the most prominent bar owner in Amsterdam, 2009 where the jury praised him for being a socially conscious entrepreneur.

    Frank is a regular food columnist for many local newspapers and conducts culinary demonstrations for various television channels. He also lectures at the College of Hotel and Tourism (TIO).

    Jaroslaw is the chef and owner of Moonsfera restaurant in Poland since 2005. After completing his course at the Technical College of Gastronomy, he worked at the Bristol Hotel, Parnas Restaurant in Warsaw and Restaurants 99 Ltd. Jaroslaw’s passion is experimental cooking where he sees himself as a culinary artist.

    Jaroslaw is the Vice President of OSSKiC (Polish Kitchen & Pastry Chefs Association) and appears regularly on Polish television and radio channels, presenting/showcasing various gastronomic delights.

    Mario decided he wanted to be a chef at the age of 7. He studied at Hotel school in Hasselt, where on completion of his course he followed several internships including stints at Figaro and Reserve in Hasselt and Knokke.

    He became the owner and main chef of de Boote (Genk) in 2000 and also joined the prestigious ‘Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe’, an association of young, talented chefs from European countries, focused on benefiting their client’s gastronomic pleasure and experience. He embarked on a venture to bring about “customized gastronomy”: haute cuisine, tailor made menus and event catering which he now implements at Hangar 58.

    Mario is passionate about his work and is always looking to create new and exciting culinary delights for his customers. He has won many awards and titles including, a Crown in the Guide Lemaire, 2004, Laureaat in the Orpha Horecatel competition and Semi- finalist in the Prosper Montagné competition (1997 & 1998).

    “Being a chef is what I do, but it is just as well a passion! A passion I love to share with other people, not only in a conventional way – but even so in a more interactive way: giving culinary workshops for example (initiatives like Cook your own dinner i.c.w. Limburg Manager) and demo&live cooking!”

Mukul Agarwal has been with the Hilton chain since April 2009 and is currently Chef de Cuisine at Hilton New Delhi / Janakpuri. He is a graduate of the hotel management Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Nutrition, Ahmedabad.

Mukul has a wealth of experience both in India and internationally and conducts high end culinary classes for charitable events. His culinary offerings reflect the most contemporary trends of fresh, local produce, nutritional options for adults and children alike.

Peter Kuruvita was born in London and from a young age was influenced by a range of cultures, mainly from his Austrian mother and Sri Lankan father. Peter’s family moved to Sydney, Australia where he followed his passion in catering. After finalising his apprenticeship Peter left Sydney to further his culinary career in London. His first role landed him in the commis chef position at the One Star Michelin restaurant, Rue St Jacques.

Peter returned to Sydney in 1984 and worked at renowned restaurants – Barrenjoey House and Bilsons – that received Sydney Morning Herald Chef Hat ratings. Peter has been regularly invited as consultant to a variety of leading hotels around the world such as the Four Seasons Hotel, Philadelphia, USA and Yasawa Island Lodge, Fiji. He was also executive chef at Hayman Island Resort in Queensland, Australia where they won many awards while he was there. Peter now runs the well-known Flying Fish Restaurant in Sydney, Australia.

Radim Gerlich was born in the Czech Republic where he attended hotel school ISŠ – COP Frenštát p. Radhošt?m. Since then he has worked in different culinary establishments around the world including London and Italy. He has worked as Chef at V. I. P. Restaurant, Profiler s. r. o. and Square, Kampapark s. r. o. and is currently the Sous Chef at Aromi, Catering Aromi s. r. o.

Radim enjoys learning new things and through his varied experiences offers his guests unique culinary creations.

Robert Schinkel is a well-known bartender from Amsterdam. After studying political science, he found his true calling working in restaurants, bars and clubs throughout the Netherlands, specializing in cocktails and hospitality. After winning the prestigious International Remy Martin Bartender Style Masters in 2006, and Bartender of the year 2007 he started a consultancy agency for the bar industry called Dr. Inc, providing brands with business knowledge and skills about fine drinks, spirits

and hospitality. In 2008 Robert teamed up with Johan Kersten to start Mixology brand building, a company planning marketing ideas and strategies for the beverage industry. In 2009 Robert Schinkel won the Dutch Dilmah Tea Sommelier competition and the Coffee in Good Spirits competition. Known for his passion for drinks and his all-round knowledge of beverages, he is today a speaker, trainer, motivator and an author for many in the bar and beverage industry.

Rohan is currently the Executive Chef at Hilton Colombo and boasts 24 years with Hilton International. Rohan started his career working in smaller resort hotels in the southern coast of Sri Lanka before joining Hilton International. After working in Europe & the Middle East he made his way back to Sri Lanka where he is the first Sri Lankan to become the Executive Chef.

Rohan has competed in various International Culinary Competitions including the Culinary Olympics 2004 held in Germany, which is considered the biggest culinary competition in the world, where he won a Gold & Silver medal and a Diploma.

He has also won many medals at the Food & Hotel Asia International culinary competitions held in Singapore. He also won the Chef of the Year Presidential Award in Travel & Tourism 2008.

Rohan is the only Sri Lankan member of the prestigious ‘Club Des Chefs Des Chefs’ and is a member of the famous club, Chain des Rotisseurs as Chef de Rotisseur. His speciality is trans-ethnic cuisine which he pioneered in Sri Lanka.

Shahid studied culinary art in India and is currently the Sous Chef at the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts in the Maldives. Prior to this appointment he was the Sous Chef at the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts Mumbai, India.

Shahid’s experience in culinary art is diverse as he has gained a lot of experience both locally and internationally. He has conducted many food festivals around the world and assisted Mrs. Rashmi Uday Singh with the publication of her book ‘The Real Good Chicken’.

Shane considers himself a passionate chef who works hard to achieve perfection. His experience in the culinary field includes working in the US, Europe and New Zealand and being a judge at culinary events around the world. Shane is currently the Head Chef of the Bistro Lago Hilton Hotel in New Zealand. Prior to this he has been Senior Chef de Partie at Launceston Place Restaurant, London and Head Chef at Euro Restaurant, Auckland.

Shane is a Gold medal winner in the Molecular Gastronomy Category at the National Culinary Competition, Auckland and is a regular culinary judge at the Nestlé Toque d’Or.

A graduate of the Vilinius Business and Trade College and the Kurt Scheller Academy, Tomas has served as Chef and Executive Chef at many culinary institutions. Currently, he is the Executive Chef at ‘Reval Hotel Neris’ (Kaunas).

Tomas has participated in many culinary competitions and has won many awards for his unique, innovative creations.

Matías was born in Mexico and moved to Chile in 1990 where he studied gastronomy at INACAP, the Technology University of Chile. Since then he has worked in many prestigious culinary establishments in locations such as Spain, New York, France, Italy and South America.

Matías reviews menus at many upscale restaurants on the request of his colleagues who value his unique gastronomic taste and style. He is also regularly invited to

participate at culinary festivals around the world and cook with world renowned chefs such as Juan Mari Arzak, Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse and José Ramón Andrés.

Matías conducts classes and workshops for students and professionals at the INACAP and at the Sukalde Restaurante. He will be opening his Sukalde Gastronomical Center including Restaurant, School, Events and Catering Service in the near future.

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