"Cooking is at once child''s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love…"
So said Craig Clairborne, famed food critic for the New York Times. But how many individuals can claim the distinction of having devoted their lives and energies to this ''act of love''? Very few, one would think.
Among these few, however, shines Dimuthu Kumarasinghe, Group Skills Development Chef of Aitken Spence Hotels, a star in the world of culinary art, with many laurels to his credit. His greatest achievement, though, is definitely the biggest, greenest and leafiest laurel of them all so far - five gold medals at the culinary exhibition and competition - the 21st Culinary Olympics 2004. His Five medals to date at this event, which is currently in progress in Germany, have been in four different categories.
There are several reasons why Dimuthu''s feat is so amazing. Originating in 1900 and held every four years, the Culinary Olympics is an event that draws the crème de la crème of the culinary world, and the competition is the most prestigious, the most aggressive and the most fiercely-contested of all culinary competitions, the world over. This makes the fact that Dimuthu won, beating master chefs from countries like France, Germany and Switzerland, with a strong cultural culinary tradition, on their familiar turf, a truly remarkable achievement.
Yet, what is even more remarkable than this is the fact that Dimuthu is the first individual ever to win such international awards for Sri Lanka, bringing laud and honour to his motherland. While many Sri Lankans have contested - and have been successful - in the past at the Culinary Olympics and other equivalent events, none of them have been representing Sri Lanka at the time. Most often, many Sri Lankans have contested while employed by hotel chains abroad, and have consequently represented their country of employment. So this makes it a first victory for Sri Lanka, as well as the first of many more victories in the future.
Dimuthu''s awards at the Olympics have been in the categories of Patisserie dessert platter, Cold food show piece, Patisserie show piece and the open event. In the first event he was required to create a festival buffet platter, of petit fours and dessert. In the second event his task was to create a showpiece for a cold food buffet. For the Pastry Showpiece, his creation had taken a classical ballet theme, giving it an air of elegance and finesse. In the Open Event, he has magically created yet another centrepiece - this time, harking back to his Sri Lankan heritage and lifestyle, with the concept of the fish market, filled with life, colour, and the involvement and repartee between the fish sellers.
Adding such feathers to his cap is, perhaps, all in a day''s work for Dimuthu. His training in the culinary arts has been varied and extensive. Having started his career in the 1990''s, he joined the Hilton Colombo, and then proceeded to the Regency Inter-Continental, Bahrain, where he worked for seven years. Following this, he joined Aitken Spence Hotels, where he is currently in the capacity of Skills Development Chef - Culinary artist, and is based at the Triton Hotel, Ahungalla as the Pastry Chef.
His outstanding career began in 1991 when he won his first Gold Medal at the Salon Culinaire organised by the Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka. Since that first, sweet taste of victory, there has been no holding back! His roll of honour includes the ''Most Outstanding Artist'' Award at the Salon Culinaire in 1993, ''Most Outstanding Artist'' at the Middle East Food Exhibition (MEFEX), Salon Culinaire, Bahrain in 1998, the ''Best Pastry Showpiece'' Award at the 11th Food Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge, Singapore in 2000, and ''Best Pastry Chef'' at the 13th Food Hotel Asia Culinary Challenge, Singapore in 2002, where he also won gold, silver and bronze medals in four categories, including the ''Dress the Cake'' competition, Artistic Pastry Showpiece, Petit Fours and Vegetable Carving. This again, was a ''first'' for Sri Lanka, since we had never won such a highly prized overall award, before.
During his stint in the Middle East, too, he represented the Regency Inter-Continental at various international culinary challenges and proved his skill and worth. After winning the highly coveted ''Outstanding Individual'' Award and the ''Master Baker'' Award for the best overall performance in Pastry at the Emirates Salon Culinaire 1999 in Dubai, Dimuthu was selected to represent Bahrain at the highly acclaimed International Catering and Trade Fair (ICTF), International Salon Culinaire 2000 in Darling Harbour,