Chef Muthu Ganesan has been cooking for 19 years in fine dining and Michelin star restaurants all over the world. Most recently, he transferred from Cracked Conch restaurant in West Bay to become the Chef de Cuisine at George Town Yacht Club. Chef Muthu shares his passion for creating fresh, locally inspired dishes.
Why did you become a chef?
My mom; my mom was a very good vegetarian cook. We had a big farm; about 17 acres of land with coconuts, lemon, rice, and almost every vegetable.
What’s the first thing you remember cooking?
I wanted to impress my mom. She would usually go to do farming work and come home in the evening to cook for all the kids. So I tried to make roti, which is like naan bread or a tortilla made with whole wheat flour. It goes with dahl. The dahl was salty and the roti was too soft. But my parents loved it; it was the first time I cooked, so my parents really enjoyed it. After that, I slowly started to help my mom more and more with cooking vegetarian food. Actually, the first time I ate meat was when I went to college at age 17!
Tell me about your job and what you do on a day to day basis.
It depends on the season, but every day I come up with unique specials and people love it. The major thing is ingredients; I use all local ingredients – local greens and vegetables. I also make my own house yoghurt and pizza dough.
What are your favourite local ingredients to cook with?
Fresh turmeric. I love to put it everywhere. It’s healthy, local, and totally fresh. Some people use turmeric powder, but I grind up the fresh turmeric and make a nice dressing with it. It’s a small item, but it’s a key item. Where I grew up, without turmeric there’s no food!
If you had to eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A garden salad with fresh turmeric. I love that. Or, I make quinoa porridge with local market ingredients. I like bitter melon too – people don’t know how to cook it, but I do. I can eat it all the time.
What is your favourite dish on the GTYC menu to cook?
I like everything, that’s why it’s on the menu! Particularly, I like to make pizza. Our sourdough is homemade. We don’t use yeast pizza, we use real Italian culture dough.
Fish filleting is also one of my favourite jobs; I do that all myself.
When you aren’t cooking, what are your hobbies?
Spending time with my daughter, or reading books. But actually, cooking is my hobby too. Sundays are my day off, so on Sundays I try to make something different for my family at lunch. We can sit down, have a glass of wine and enjoy eating in.
What advice would you give someone looking to enter the culinary industry?
Cook from the heart; cook from inside. If not, there’s no use in joining the culinary industry. If you taste what you make and you don’t love it yourself, don’t send it to the table.