Gastronomical Journeys
October 2017

Chef Jennifer Lee
Credit; Yudhi Artisan

SriLankan Airlines is the official airline partner of the Colombo Supper Club, a novel fine dining experience that is offered in Sri Lanka. The event features award winning international chefs and their exciting pop up restaurants. Chef Jennifer Lee and mixologist Christian Hartmann of Vaco Singapore unveil the secrets of Latin American cuisine and share their inspirations.

Excerpts from the interviews

Chef Jennifer Lee

What inspired you to become a mixologist/Chef?

There was no defining moment when I thought 'I want to be a chef' - it was a kind of a natural progression. I'm originally from a design background and food is just another area to explore and showcase my creativity. Food breaks down barriers no matter what language you speak. That's what I love about food and that's what I love about being a chef - to showcase my experiences and to share my stories and life journeys through food.

Across the world, street food has been one of the most authentic ways of exploring a country. Tell us about Latin American street food?
Street food worldwide is a great way to look into how a country indulges. What I love about Latin American street food is that there is so much history behind it. In Mexico, tortillas and tamales are everywhere - these were the food consumed by Mayans and Aztecs. In Venezuela and Colombia you will find arepas, showcasing the region's staple crop - corn. In Peru, street food, especially ceviche has a long history of change and reflects the Japanese immigration patterns in the country during the 1900s. Brazil is a mix of African, European and Japanese. Argentina is influenced by a strong Italian culture.

What are the ingredients that you can't do without?
Wherever I am in the world, I love to use local produce and blend with my favourite ingredients. My favourite spice is cumin and I can't do without good sea salt - that's essential. I love chillies, not necessarily the hot ones! Some Peruvian chillies have great flavours with lesser heat. Limes are essential in Latin American food. I also couldn't live without tomatoes and good extra virgin olive oil!

How was your experience on board SriLankan Airlines?

I found the staff to be very friendly and accommodating. It was my first time flying and I loved their traditional uniforms. A very authentic touch.

How was your experience in Sri Lanka?
Although we were in Sri Lanka for a few days for the Colombo Supper Club, our experience was an extremely positive one. Everyone we met here were extremely helpful and the staff in restaurants and hotels will go out of their way to make your experience pleasant. I also particularly loved visiting the local food market to check out what produce was popular here. Sri Lankan food proved to be a pleasant surprise to me and not as heavy as I had imagined it would be. A lot of salads are incorporated into Sri Lankan meals, which I found very different as opposed to Indian cuisine. Although it was a short visit I intend to visit Sri Lanka again. The people really are beautiful in Sri Lanka.

Mixologist Christian Hartmann

What inspired you to be a mixologist?
I started making coffee and cooking for my parents when I was just six years old. It's very satisfying to produce something that the people around you will get to taste at the end. You never stop training your palate in our industry. At least you shouldn't. Being creative is one thing but at the end of the day, there's really only one group of people who are going to determine or decide whether or not you're on to something: your guests. That is the reason why I am in this industry.

How is Latin American bar different from any other?
We are lucky to have a group of countries that all have unique flavours and amazing produce - both drinks and food. Many of the countries have strong culinary traditions of food with fantastic flavours. It's still a cuisine that's new to a lot of people in Asia. That makes it super exciting and rewarding to educate our guests on both food and drinks.

If you were to have an alternative career, what would it be and why?

I hold a Masters degree in Economic Marketing and before that I was a trainee in a shipping company. Yet I decided that operations within F&B was the perfect choice for me. If I were to choose something else, I would like to be a creative director or copywriter for an ad agency to come up with slogans and story boards for commercials for various brands.

How was your experience on board SriLankan Airlines?

We felt so welcome from the second that we stepped on board. Being in the service industry, you look for small details but it is actually the smallest things like a welcoming smile and the fact that someone is willing to go out of their way to give you a great experience. I always say that it's important to give the guest that little something they didn't know they wanted. Everything else, they expect as a given. I felt that our experience on board was one of those unique experiences where you feel the great service.

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    Mixologist – Christian Hartmann

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