DURBAN - Chef Kevin Pillay has come a long way since the days when, as a youngster, he helped to clean veggies at his aunt’s little eatery in KwaDukuza (Stanger).
The lamb curry that Pillay, 30, and his team from the Suncoast Towers’ Jeera Restaurant conjured was voted the tastiest in the Coca Cola Bunny Chow Barometer Challenge, last week.
Landing the honours in this competition is sought after in the local fast food circles, and it duly drew many entries from all quarters and ended with a taste-off between 10 finalists at Blue Lagoon.
When Jeera Restaurant were announced as the winners, Pillay, who is the Suncoast Towers executive chef, became emotional.
“It was an overwhelming experience, the effort was worth it in the end,” Pillay said.
The effort Pillay referred to was being in readiness for the competition and cooking lamb curry, to perfection, for 500 people on the day of the competition, while tending to his usual duties at the hotel.
Preparing for the competition began in earnest for Pillay when he took up the leading role at the hotel's kitchen.
Pillay changed the butcher who supplied cuts of lamb and asked for the meat to be sliced. He also ensured that the vegetables were fresh.
Pillay said the infusion of spices into their lamb dish is what set them apart.
He explained that the spices he used were roasted and ground in-house.
For Pillay, cooking, especially curries, is all about “touch, feel, aroma and taste”, and he believes he and his team have nailed the ultimate lamb curry.
But curries has not been his specialty for the bulk of his 11 year career as a chef. He started out as an apprentice in Zimbali Lodge’s kitchen. Fine dining and English cuisine has been Pillay’s gastronomical gearing.
However, that changed when he joined the Suncoast Towers, where Indian delights are the main offering at the Jeera Restaurant.
The hotel's food and beverages manager, Reshlin Naidoo, said they were extremely proud of Pillay.
“Kevin’s strength is being creative and adventurous and we will continue to give him the latitude to experiment.
“There has been much excitement since the win. We have since changed our perspective by offering a wider variety of lunch and supper offerings at cheaper rates,” said Naidoo.