I’m my own person | Daily News

I’m my own person

Chef Koluu

 Like the food he prepares he has the perfect mix of ingredients required for success. Larger than life personality Koluu has been himself throughout his life. Outstanding Personalities features Chef Koluu who is undeniably a talented chef. But maybe it is the fact that he is simply unafraid to be himself that makes him so well loved in Colombo Society.

Q: This dynamism and flamboyancy of yours, how did that develop?

A: From childhood I have been involved in drama and I was quite dramatic about everything! So I think that is how that flamboyancy came. I was lucky to have very understanding parents who had no issues. It was always a happy childhood which was carefree. I have always loved to be flamboyant and I have always loved cooking! Those were two things which went together. So it was always quite fun! I started cooking from a very young age and I have been cooking for over 40 years.

School life was fun and we had a good time. But I did not study to a great extent! From school I went straight to hotel school. Wherever I went, I had a good time, not that I was the jolly soul throughout! You had to face everything.

Koluu was my sister’s pet name and it stuck to me for life! From kolla it became koluu! And that got stuck for life! Fame has been thrust upon me. I have not gone looking for fame. It is all to do with my flamboyant lifestyle and I have become a character. I don’t go to promote myself. But whatever I have done, I have done well. So I say do your job properly!

Q: What made you enter the culinary profession?

A: It was a hobby that turned into a profession. My father was a journalist and 50 years ago we did not have hotels and restaurants. There were no computers or facilities. We had trouble in the country then. There was the insurgency down south.

There were a lot of foreign journalists coming in and my father used to write for international Reuters. There used to be journalists in our house all the time and it became a hub and a meeting place. And cooking used to go on there.

So I became interested in cooking and it became a hobby. I enjoyed it and it gradually turned into a profession with my friends encouraging me. I started selling cakes and then it turned into other things. It led from one thing to another. And here I am! Cooking was always something I enjoyed doing. I genuinely enjoyed it and it was within me.

Q: What kind of dishes do you like to make?

A: I enjoyed making cakes and then I transferred onto other things. There was a time when there was nothing available in this country. This was during the Sirimavo Bandaranaike time. It was dreadful here and we had to be really creative. So I did cakes and one thing led to another. I was really interested and I really pursued cooking. I traveled a lot and gained a lot of exposure. I did a lot of jobs such as working for an ambassador and a millionaire and it was always a joy ride. I finally came back here. I started working here and started Barefoot Café, from one restaurant to another and here I am 41 years later!

During Sirimavo’s time there were no ingredients in the country. There was no sugar and there was no flour. So you had to a make cakes out of condensed milk. You had to be creative. In a way the hardships made me creative. But I never looked at the downside of anything. I consider the advantages. I looked at all of it as a challenge and it was quite fun.

That makes us creative, so wherever we go we can put things together, because we are used to not having ingredients.

I started with cakes but I rarely make cakes now. Now I concentrate a lot on Sri Lankan food because I think Sri Lankan food is a dying art. Wherever we go we do not see proper Sri Lankan food. Nobody offers proper Sri Lankan food.

That is why I have got into my curry mixed line to make it an easy way for people to have Sri Lankan food.

Q: What causes do you fight for?

A: I don’t fight for any cause! I don’t believe in these causes. I am supportive of many things. I like to help mentally challenged people.

When I have done my shows I have always seen it that it has gone towards to the IDP School, the Chitra Lane School, Sunera Foundation etc. I like those causes. I don’t go shouting on the streets but I help as much as I can within my limits.

I am not involved in gay movements because I simply do not believe in it. I am my own person.

Q: Tell me about the shows you do.

A: It was always fun and it has always been a nice thing. It was fun doing impersonations, get into drag and have a hilarious evening. We always did it for a worthy cause.

There were a lot of good people who came and volunteered and it was always a great event to have. It was always a full house and at the end of the day we were happy that some charity made some money out of it. That is why I said we helped all the schools. I gave it up because I am a little too old to be running around in high heels! And I am overweight as well! It was a great fun and I loved doing Indu’s shows. They were hilarious and for me, I loved to play characters. Impersonation was such fun. And to this day people ask – when is the next show? I loved drag shows! It was hilarious. I am sure there must have been a lot of criticism but I don’t bother about criticism. We had absolute full houses. It was a sell out and there was a huge demand for it. The tickets were priced high because we did it for charity. Who cares about criticism. There is criticism about everything in this country! Whether you do good, bad or wrong they criticize! I don’t bother about it at all! Criticism is also good because it makes you better.

Drag shows are a very happy and happening event. It was an annual show that people looked forward to. They came with anticipation to enjoy themselves. We have had critics in the audience. Social media is a big thing where people can criticize and say what they want. But 99.9 percent have had a ball.

Q: What is your message to society and the youth?

A: Be yourself! And be happy! Don’t live for other people. That is the most essential thing. I find that the biggest problem in life is that people are not being themselves and they are living for other people. That is something I don’t understand. People lead different lives, so be yourself! Whatever you do focus on it. There is no point living a life to please other people. It is a short life to live so enjoy it.

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced in life and how did you respond to them?

A: I think the biggest challenge in life is running establishments here. We have to deal with other human beings. Leading staff is one of the biggest headaches in this country. I find people who are employed are not dedicated to their work. So we have to see that we get the best out of them. That has been a challenge because some are successful and some fail. To motivate people and get them to work has been the biggest challenge. Some people are not interested in their work and they come to work because of the salary. We have a lot of talent in Sri Lanka especially in the culinary field. Also never expect any form of gratitude. You must remember that first.

Q: What displeases you about the society?

A: The false lives people lead. It is actually amusing to me. Colombo is a fun place to go out. You see the most hilarious things at social functions because everyone is acting what they are not. They want to show off to each other. More than displeasing me it actually amuses me. Whatever displeases me – I don’t get involved. In my column in the papers, I say - if you don’t like it, don’t read it! Vice versa.

Q: What kind of songs, music and books are you into?

A: I love classical music and it is the kind of music that calms and soothes you. When it comes to books I like history novels and romance but I am not a science fiction fan. I loved ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Game of Thrones’. I love things like that! There is a wide selection now. I love travelling. I love visiting places.

Pictures by Sarath Peiris


 

There is 1 Comment

KOLLU is a talented soul who I have known for many decades and enjoyed his cooking at various restaurants and Hoteks , etc. When he talks about Mrs B s era brings to mind all the hardships we in our youthand the whole country went thru. it was said that she was greatly influenced by Tito of Jugoslavia amd she often visited Croatia his birthplace. What a beautiful country and how it has prospered even after a severe bombing by the Serbs. It beats me how she could deprive the youth of my generation with her draconian tactics of robbing the haves and giving the have nots. KOLLU is a producr of that ra and survived. well done KOLLU

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