How does one make the transition from fulltime radio jockey to professional chef? Meet Dyllon Ekanayake: a professional home chef based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Having always cooked and experimented in the kitchen, Dyllon began his career in radio and was the first RJ in Sri Lanka to switch from English to Sinhala medium. However, upon moving to Malaysia in 2010 and in the midst of his gigs, he began to truly miss the aroma of an authentic Sri Lankan kitchen and the taste of blended local spices. It was around that time that he began cooking for himself more regularly and through the introduction of Sri Lankan cuisine to his Malaysian friends, it was apparent that Dyllon’s culinary skills deserved more praise than it was being given.
Having signed up with PlateCulture in 2015 – a sharing economy platform that enables guests to dine at a local host’s home – Dyllon was soon able to amass a fandom of both Malaysians and expatriates visiting the country. Among the challenges that Dyllon had to initially undergo included, the curbing of spice quantities to better adapt to various palates and also to ensure that the rendition of Sri Lankan food he was preparing was a fine balance of healthy, nutritious and organic.
Along with his reignited passion for culinary adventures, Dyllon also began studying and researching theories and the science of the food he was preparing. It was a constant struggle to ensure that the taste remained uncompromised despite the removal of unhealthy ingredients, such as oils.
Through a few months of hard work in the kitchen and over 2,000 happy guests at dinner, it is fair to say that success followed Dyllon beyond the walls of his kitchen. He soon partnered up with LokaLocal, a Malaysia-based experience curator and was named one of its best home-dining chefs in the country in November 2018.
It was around the same time that Dyllon also began experimenting with cuisines outside of his home country. Having by chance dipped his coconut roti in his Lebanese business partner’s homemade hummus, Dyllon did something that many (or any!) chefs wouldn’t even dream of experimenting: creating a Sri Lankan-Lebanese fusion menu.
“I think it’s normal for us to adjust our palate’s according to our region’s cuisines. While we do eat cuisines that are not exclusively our own, oftentimes, we don’t experiment in our own kitchens and see how best cuisines from different parts of the world can be combined and this is exactly what I did with Lebanese cuisine. Through trial, error and experiments, we soon discovered that we were able to perfectly balance out the tang and the mildness of Lebanese cuisine and the excessive spices found in Sri Lankan cooking,” said Dyllon.
To experience a curated menu from Dyllon’s Kitchen, be sure to check out his Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/dyllonskitchen.x.ceylon2u and if, in Malaysia, his listings are on LokaLocal, PlateCulture, Dine Inn, Ceylon 2u and KL Vacations.
Quickfire in the kitchen with Dyllon
- What does a day in your life look like?
On a typical weekday, I have my grocery shopping done by 11:00 am. As it is imperative that all of my meals remain fresh, I shop for groceries every day and leave in anything in a marinade for a maximum of three hours. Then we cook and by 05:00 pm we take a break to prepare the table for our guests. While the ‘official’ cut off time is three hours, the earliest that guests ever leave our terrace area is 10:00 pm! So once they leave (usually around midnight) we clean up, sleep and do the same thing the following day.
- What was the first meal/dish you cooked?
Coconut roti with a fish curry nearly 30 years ago.
- What’s the favourite meal/dish you enjoy cooking?
Coconut roti! It’s also one of my bestsellers.
- Have you had any kitchen disasters?
Many! One of the first was when I was making milk toffee and a blob of toffee managed to get on my finger. The next thing I knew, I was rushed to the Emergency Room and they had to surgically take out the hardened toffee!
- What is the next big thing or cuisine you want to experiment with?
I have been intrigued by Szechwan cuisines and their use of five spices and sauces. It’s quite different to how I cook, has very bold flavours quite different from the Sri Lankan ones I’m used to, as well as the unique flavour of Sichuan pepper.
By Senashia Ekanayake