Meet The Chef: Rishi Naleendra

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The Wordrobe gets up close and professional with chef Rishi Naleendra of Michelin-starred Cheek by Jowl


What inspired you to become a chef?
When I was 18 years old, I moved to Melbourne, Australia, to study architecture. However, I decided to change courses to study Commercial Cookery when I took up a part time job as a kitchen hand in a café.

It was here that I first got to see what it’s like to be working in a busy restaurant, and this experience sparked my interest to explore working in the culinary industry as a chef.

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Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…
My first job was as a kitchen hand in a café in Melbourne and I managed to start an apprenticeship at Taxi Dining Room. From there I worked my way to be a Sous Chef. Three and a half years later, I was offered a position as a Chef de Partie at Tetsuya’s in Sydney.

After which I moved on to work at Yellow by Brent Savage as a pastry chef. In 2015, I decided to move to Singapore to head Maca (now-defunct) and a chance encounter gave me an opportunity to have my own space that is Cheek by Jowl which has now been open for over 2 years.

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Do you have a favourite spring dish?
When it comes to spring one of my favourite things to eat is Spring Lamb., especially with spring leaves and spring vegetables to accompany. It is my favourite season when it comes to produce.

What can guests expect from the menu at Carousel London?
Guests can look forward to some of the signatures from Cheek by Jowl.   I have also specially created some dishes for this pop-up.

Do you have any role models?
Yes I do, my parents when we were young they used to have a catering business in Sri Lanka and I remember how hard they worked and how much they sacrificed to be in the industry. My dad always said works comes first.

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What keeps you inspired?
People that who I work with, customers who have been supporting us, friends also in the industry. To come to work everyday and see how hard working our team is, our team really does inspire me a lot these days.  

How did you celebrate your Michelin star?
When we came back to the restaurant at around 10pm after the award ceremony, business was still operating as usual. The moment we walked in, everyone started cheering and by 11pm, many of our industry friends and regular customers visited us. That night, we had over 60 people celebrating with us, and it’s a night we’ll never forget.

Describe your cooking style in three words.
Simple, honest, creative.

What’s next on the cards?
I want to concentrate on Cheek by Jowl and make it a better restaurant, better experience for our guests and focusing on this.

Name three of your favourite restaurants
I don’t want to name three of my favourite restaurants as I have so many more. I would like to tell you three of my favourite things to eat: Pizza, Sushi, really nice Sri Lankan breakfast- hoppers or string hoppers.

Finally… what’s your favourite midnight snack?
A bowl of mince pork noodles, Mee Sua dry style.

PLUS: Mark Your Diary
Rishi is bringing his flavoursome modern Australian food from Singapore to London as a guest chef at Carousel restaurant for a fortnight-long residency from 12th to 23rd June. 

Click here for more.

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