meet the chef
Chanaka Jayabahu Executive Chef 50 Bistro at The George
Originally from Colombo, Sri Lanka Chanaka Jayabahu, now the executive chef at luxury hotel The George in Christchurch, moved to New Zealand eight years ago.
y journey with cooking started right after high school,” Jayabahu told Restaurant & Café magazine. Jayabahu joined the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, the best platform to pursue his career as a chef. After working in Sri Lanka and overseas he moved to New Zealand in 2012 to further enhance his career both professionally and academically. “I completed a National Diploma in Hospitality (Operational Management) which really helped me gain a better understanding of the hospitality industry in New Zealand.” The experience he gained, together with his academic achievements, has helped Jayabahu progress up the career ladder. He is very proud to have held various positions managing kitchens at the Heritage hotel and Palagama Beach Resort in Sri Lanka, Brinkley and more recently at Terrace Downs in Canterbury, as well as one of New Zealand’s best ski resorts in Methven. “Over 18 years of culinary experience, combined with my achievements in the industry, have brought me to the position I am today.” 50 Bistro at The George is an award winning, stylish casual restaurant in Christchurch with a menu that offers classic bistro dishes twisted with its own 50 flair. 50 Bistro spans three interconnected rooms and offers an intimate place to meet, a lightfilled conservatory with a living wall for outdoor dining, and a stylish indoor ‘neo-bistro’ restaurant serving up modern New Zealand cuisine. “Our focus is on providing high quality cuisine using the best of seasonal and locally sourced produce,” explained Jayabahu. Menus change throughout the year to reflect the mood and trends of each season. Spring and summer bring delicate dishes with crisp vinaigrettes and aromatic herbs, while autumn and winter’s dishes are warming, served with richer jus and sauces to satisfy heartier appetites. A hotel restaurant does not just cater for guests who come to enjoy food. The expectations of diners vary according to the purpose of their visit to the hotel - business meetings, presentations, weddings, corporate dinners, or to stay in a room for the night. “So we have to focus on providing food for
different needs,” Jayabahu noted. “Creativity and innovation are so important, our offering needs to be fresh, unique and constantly evolving. We are always conscious of our hotel’s reputation and the public perception of what we do.” A typical workday for Jayabahu starts with staff briefings and then proceeds to overseeing the team’s work, making sure the operation runs smoothly, food ordering, attending meetings, planning menus, and also working on the pass. “I also spend a lot of my time organising and preparing for upcoming events.” The impacts of COVID-19 have created a difficult time for everyone, but particularly for hospitality businesses. Jayabahu has found it challenging to maintain social distancing when working in a kitchen and having to work with a limited number of staff due to the financial impact on the business. The scarcity of some products due to restrictions on imports has been an issue as well. Despite these challenges Jayabahu loves the evolving nature of his job. “Every day is different and challenging. The positive feedback I receive for my skills is hugely rewarding and satisfying.” 50 Bistro is renowned for great casual food, a warm and inviting ambience and great hospitality. This is something Jayabahu wants to continue to deliver throughout the rest of his career. Of course, working in a kitchen can be stressful at times, to relax and unwind Jayabahu enjoys spending time in nature and exploring this beautiful country he now calls home. His advice to those just beginning their culinary career is not to rush. “Cooking is an art; it takes time to carve your skills. Be patient, keep yourself educated, love what you do, and you will have a successful journey.” Spread over three stylish spaces, 50 Bistro restaurant, conservatory, and lounge bar at The George is open daily until late. The George, a luxury boutique hotel, is the essence of supreme comfort and is renowned for offering a personalised stay and attentive staff. Located in the heart of Christchurch overlooking the picturesque Hagley Park and River Avon it offers beautiful accommodation just steps from the cultural precinct of Christchurch. Visit www.thegeorge.com