“Be passionate, work hard and learn every day.”
That is the message from Australian Celebrity Chef, Peter Kuruvita, who is in the country working with Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel.
Mr. Kurivita, who was born in London, started cooking at the age of 15. It happened when he was in Sri Lanka where he watched his grandmother prepare ancient Sri Lankan dishes in their old kitchen. His father is from Sri Lanka and his mother is from Australia.
He then moved to Australia and did most of his training in Australia before he moved back to London where he spent several years.
He has an international following all around the world, having to travel and be in 20 different kitchens around the world in one year.
And that is why the 52-year-old Celebrity Chef is in the country.
The Seafood from the Heart at Feast Fale was opened to members of the public on Saturday night showcasing Peter’s style and culinary sophistication.
Peter who is famously known for his ‘Flying Fish’ Restaurants in Australia and Fiji, said he did not want to give the restaurant here in Samoa, the similar name.”
“I didn’t want to call the restaurant here at Aggie Grey, the Flying Fish,” he says. “Because Marina Grey told me a lot about the family and a lot about the history and I thought somewhere along the line we needed to pay homage to the famous lady worldwide, one of the people who put Samoa on the map.”
“And learning and reading about the history of this hotel and Aggie Grey herself, it really motivated me to come up with a unique style of food for this place.”
“The menu here isn’t like Flying fish. We have created a special menu just for this restaurant. For example, we have a dish called the loco moco dish, which is a Hawaiian dish.”
Peter also sees this as an opportunity to share his knowledge and experience with the emerging chefs and aspiring chefs of Samoa.
“This is a great opportunity for me to able to share my knowledge of what I had learnt throughout the world in all those years of cooking and also the chance to come to such a beautiful place.”
Hard work and passion are what Peter believes contributed to the success of his career.
“I have been doing this for 37 years now,” he told the Weekend Observer.”
“To me, the main factor to being successful in any business is hard work and also dedication. I think when young chefs come to me; I’d get their parents to come as well so I could talk to them and tell them that it’s not going to be easy.”
“And tell them about the reality of what we do as chefs. There’s a lot of repetition, there’s a lot of hard work and there’s a lot of creativity as well.”
“And if you push really hard and if you work really hard, you get recognized. And when you get recognized, you move up in the world.”
“Being a chef is a job of passion but it is also a hard job. Those two go hand in hand. I say it to people all the time. If you only want to work from 9-5, then find another job. If you don’t want to work overnight and if you don’t want to work on the weekends, then might as well find something else to do.”
“There are a lot of sacrifices in being a chef, but there are so many more rewards.”
He went on to say that being a chef was life changing for him.
“I wasn’t a good boy when I was young.”
“And so at the age of 15 when I started cooking, one of the things that really changed for me was that I got away from all the people I used to hang out with.”
“I started working opposite hours and over night and it changed my life; it kept me going forward and led me to where I am now rather than in jail somewhere. To me, it was a savior, but it was also a deep passion for me.”
Where does he draw his inspiration from?
“People,” says Peter.
“I think that anyone who wants to become a chef needs some kind of inspiration. The worst kind of inspiration you can have is the saying “I want to be famous.”
“I draw my inspiration from my grandmother and other experience chefs.”
“I love what I do now, because I get to travel around the world and meet new people and learn from them and also share my knowledge with them.”
“I’m in 20 different kitchens around the world every year; I meet hundreds of chefs and thousands of waiters every year.”
“But I really think that the inspiration should come from within.”
“You need someone who mentors you and you need someone to look up to and help you rise up.”
“I have been lucky to have those people. And I think as a chef, you should never forget those who helped you with your work, and never forget those who are just coming up to the rank. They need some help and they need to be lifted up.”
“I draw my inspiration from other chefs. I am a good chef because I work with great people and I know that I am nothing without those people. I listen to them and give them the opportunity to share their ideas and opinions.
“Everyone has different ideas; everyone has inspiration that comes from somewhere. And if you open your eyes and learn from others, I think that’s where I get my inspiration from. And that helps me keep it fresh.
“I know a lot of chefs who keep their kitchen tight and they make every decision.”
“But when you make every decision, you won’t grow, especially when it comes to creativity. You’d be surprised if you let some of the young people give in their ideas about how to do things.”
“Because if you close the door for them to speak, you will be stuck doing the same thing you’ve been doing for ten years over and over again.”
“So for me, inspiration comes from all directions. It comes from other people and I try not to look at magazines and pictures of other people’s food because I like to try and create my own things. But I am always in awe of what other chefs do and how dedicated they are in what they do.”
Nevertheless, Peter believes that this is the beginning of great things for Sheraton Aggie Grey Resort.
“My relationship with Sheraton is now ten years old. But being able to work here and to speak to the descendants of Aggie Grey and to try and re-create that feel is just amazing.”
“This hotel has been resurrected two or three times because of natural disasters.”
“This is the next coming; this is the reincarnation of this hotel. To me, I don’t just think that I am a cook, and I am here to make money. I have a deep respect for the history of this hotel and I just want to be part of it.”
He also believes that more people will soon discover the beauty of Samoa and it will become a tourist destination.
“Samoa has this beautiful innocent feature which is wonderful.”
“It’s undiscovered; there are not many people out there who know about Samoa. I know New Zealanders and Americans know about this place. “
“Samoa is like Sri Lanka where my father is from. They have just come out of 30 years of civil war and during the 30 years of civil war, no tourist went there.”
“So now that it has emerged, it’s like Samoa, like a new discovery and people are starting to flock to it and see, and I feel that that’s what will happen to Samoa as well.”
“I think Samoa is a wonderful place with beautiful people who are really warm-hearted people.”
Finally, he wanted to encourage the aspiring chefs of Samoa to keep working hard and keep moving forward.
“Be passionate, work hard and learn every day.”
“You can learn one thing every day, I have been doing it for 37 years and I am still learning.”
“So just open your eyes, work hard and you will get there.”
“For me, the goal is seeing the smile on someone’s face when they eat the food that you prepare and also the inner satisfaction of preparing something well.”