Rukshan Dabare | Pics by Chandana Wijesinghe

Award-winning culinary expert Rukshan Dabare says it’s best if people develop food habits based on their own environment which will promise wellbeing

“I absolutely love what I do,” said award-winning Chef Rukshan Dabare who has expertise in the hotel industry, especially as a chef, for more than two decades. At present, apart from his professional work, he takes pleasure in conducting seminars, free of charge, for school-children on the art of cooking. After long years of service at various prestigious hotels in the country, he travels around the country teaching school children about the wonders and creativity of cooking.

Rukshan is the first chef to write a book on Buddhist culinary art and culture. In his book Bathi Sithin Dan Demu, he discusses pure vegetarian recipes made at alms-giving ceremonies as well as the correct way of fulfilling the ritual of serving food to the clergy

With the support of the Education Department and Cherubium Lanka (Pvt) Ltd best known for its coconut related Marina products, Rukshan has visited over 700 schools across the country conducting seminars and workshops. He emphasized the importance of school-children mastering home science. “They might become professionals in any field they want; they can become doctors, engineers or IT professionals or whatever they want to become. Yet they need a good knowledge in home science. If not he or she will not become a complete person,” he said. He further said that his goal is to visit 6,000 schools with his seminar series.

“It makes me happy to teach children these skills. They might not become professional chefs. If they learn how to enjoy a meal, how to make another person happy with something he or she cooked and if they learn how to embrace local things through these attempts, that is enough for me,” he added.

Notebook-of-an-achieverChef Rukshan recalled how he took pleasure in cooking and experimenting with food to discover new flavors since childhood. He said that his family was always supportive of his work since he was very young that no one stopped him from playing with culinary.

Although he is originally from Matara, he received his school education from Isipathana College, Colombo. He was an all rounder at school that he was interested in both academic work as well as extracurricular activities at school. Even as a kid, he was inquisitive about the different dishes made at home. He said that the more he studied the recipes the more he understood that cooking is a science although we don’t pay much attention to it.

His childhood hit many rough patches as his father passed away while Rukshan was still very young. He had to start working as soon as he turned 18 years old. Starting off as a kitchen steward in early 90s, he reminisced how he learnt to become a chef step by step. Today he is, no pun intended, a seasoned chef who had gathered working experience in the world’s and Sri Lanka’s most prestigious hotels. Today he works as a brand ambassador for Marina products.

Chef Rukshan became known to most of the Sri Lankans through his television programs and newspaper articles where he introduced easy and creative recipes to local audience, mostly using local ingredients. His cookery programs are very popular among the Sri Lankan housewives as well as people who love to enjoy different home cooked dishes.
There are many books and magazines with various recipes. Yet Rukshan is the first chef to write a book on Buddhist culinary art and culture. In his book Bathi Sithin Dan Demu, he discusses pure vegetarian recipes made at alms giving ceremonies as well as the correct way of fulfilling the ritual of serving food to the clergy. “Most of us perform alms-giving ceremonies just because we are bound to do them. We don’t know the correct way of following rituals in giving a dhana. We might not receive the complete merit of offering dhana if we are to make mistakes in the process,” he pointed out.

Observing these common mistakes made during alms giving ceremonies, Rukshan noted that it will be very helpful if someone wrote down the proper methods that can be used even in the modern age. Bathi Sithin Dan Demu is available at local book stores including the Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mawatha Buddhist Cultural Center. All proceeds from book sales are used to fund Samanera bhikkus in rural areas.

He lamented on how people have given into foreign instant foods which are not suitable for consumption. “Food habits of a certain culture are developed within its environment. It’s best if people can develop food habits based on what they can find within their own environment. This was practiced in the old days and people were relatively healthy,” he explained. “What is best for us is what is grown in our soil,” he added.

He further added that most of the countries give priority to local foods. “But in Sri Lanka we are always looking for foreign instant foods which predispose us to various health issues,” he lamented. “We have our own instant recipes. It is just that no one is willing to support the local people who come up with these ideas,” he said.

He explained how French fries can be replaced with a healthy snack made by Lawulu, a fruit which can be easily found, but not consumed much. He also explained how burger patty can be made out of local ingredients like Kurakkan, Sesame or Kohila. One of his goals is to promote these conventional food items across the country as well as in other countries.

To celebrate World Children’s Day in October, chef Rukshan with his colleagues in the chef guild are preparing to make the world’s largest milk rice. “Our intention is to invoke blessing on the country and its people wishing them good health,” he said. This ‘national milk rice’ is planned to be made from 6,000kg of Kekulu rice and expects to serve more than 7,500 people. “We will only accept the support of local companies who are working to strengthen local businesses. They are the ones who can truly wish well, the people of this country, not the people who try to get our people to appreciate foreign things, engrossed in the financial benefits received from multinational companies,” he reiterated.

Speaking about his future goals, Rukshan said that his intention is to disseminate the knowledge he has acquired throughout his professional journey. “There are many talented youngsters in the hotel field today. They lack support and guidance. If we can help them out as their seniors they can travel a long way in this field. They will make this industry better,” he said. “But sadly, some in the field are unwilling to see these young people achieving better than them. I, with my good friends around me, will try my best to support them to the best of my capabilities,” he concluded.

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