Australian Celebrity Chef, Peter Kuruvita (center) pictured with his chefs of Flying Fish Restaurant, Sheraton Resort & Spa, Vitilai Dawai and Shaleni Naidu on Denarau Island Photo: ANA SOVA
By ANA SOVA
World renowned Australian chef, restaurateur and media personality, Peter Kuruvita is visiting the country this week.
We caught up with him yesterday during a cooking class at his Flying Fish Fiji Restaurant & Bar at the Sheraton Resort & Spa on Denarau Island.
This is one of Peter’s four visits to his Flying Fish Restaurants at Sheraton Resort and Spa and on Tokoriki Island that he carries out annually.
“I come here four times a year for five days at a time, here and the Flying Fish Restaurant on Tokoroiki Island. What I basically do, I bring in a chef and a manager who I pick and then they come in and work with the local staff,” Peter said.
He said they try and create a menu that encompasses Fijian produce and really focusing on what’s best in Fiji.
“Using a few Fijian techniques and then bringing modern techniques to Fiji so that the Chefs here are growing and learning,” Peter said.
During the cooking class, the 54 year old demonstrated Fijian Chicken curry & Kokoda.
Peter said in his restaurant they don’t damage the local cuisine.
“What I demonstrated today was Kokoda and Indo-Fijian curry; I wouldn’t do anything different to it because I don’t think it needs it, same as the Kokoda,”
“I wouldn’t change it; it’s a traditional dish here. What I do though is I use the local produce, whatever is locally available and we also pick from our organic garden. So we incorporate those foods into our dishes,” he said.
Peter said they basically showcase the beauty of the Fijian ingredients.
He said the restaurant has really grown since its inception 10 years ago.
For those of you that do not know, 10 years ago the Flying Fish Restaurant was opened at the Sheraton Resort & Spa on Denarau Island in 2008 following the hotel’s refurbishments.
Peter said at the time one of the food and beverage directors from Starwood Hotels had approached him to ask if he was interested to open a Flying Fish Restaurant at the resort.
“This restaurant used to be called the Blue Vonu and before the renovation it was just like a little café, so they were looking for someone to bring a restaurant theme into it and I had a restaurant in Sydney called Flying Fish and so they’ve been to that and said they would like to build a Flying Fish here,” he said.
Peter said the restaurant has really grown over the years since its establishment.
“The restaurant has grown and evolved because about every two years we have a new chef which keeps it fresh for the guys in the kitchen but also once after two years those chefs are taken to another one of my restaurant, so they move on,”
“As far as the local chefs, growing and evolving, five or six of them now have gotten to a stage where they’ve applied for jobs in Australia and New Zealand and been accepted through their skills acquired from working here,” Peter said.
He said the opportunities for the staff are very good.
“It’s not just being stuck here. We make sure that they learn lots and learn different techniques”.
He said the restaurant itself has also expanded.
“Now we’ve got a new deck and we’re in the process of turning half of it into a big bar which will be good for sunset cocktails. We’ve also increased the numbers of tables and seats,”
“It’s all about the evolution and keeping up with what’s going on. These changes will be a very big financial gain for us at the same time giving our customers a great environment to enjoy and see the sunset,” Peter said.
He said the Flying Fish has growing competition from other signature restaurants and chefs of hotels on Denarau and also the Port Denarau Marina.
“With all the travels I do when I come here, I bring new ideas and techniques and so whatever someone has copied from us this time, when I leave we put something new on,”
“You know when people are imitating you or hiring your chefs, that’s the great form of flattery and the credit goes to the chefs in the kitchen, not I because I’m only here 20 days a year,” Peter said.