Chef Profile January 2019: Kunwar Sharma, head chef at Lusty Beg Resort and Spa
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO COOKING?
I got into cooking about 15 years ago, inspired by my mother. My mum was always cooking when I was growing up, and inspired me to take on home economics at school. She’s from the Punjab region of India where the tradition of home-cooked food is quite strong, so there were always lovely smells in the house. I used to go there to visit every year. I’m from Derry myself.
HAVE YOU ANY CULINARY QUALIFICATIONS?
I have levels 1, 2 and 3 in professional cookery from Fermanagh College.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN THE TRADE?
My first job was shoeing horses in Enniskillen, a world away from where I am now. For 10 years I owned my own Indian restaurant in Spain. I learned a lot about cooking out there. We also had a beach bar where we catered for a lot of English tourists who loved it.
HAS ANYONE INSPIRED YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
As I said before, my mother was my main inspiration for my love of cooking. I wanted to be able to make the smells and tastes that filled my house growing up and pay homage to Indian culture.
WHEN DID YOU JOIN YOUR CURRENT VENUE?
I joined Lusty Beg in 2010, so I have been here a long time. My cooking has progressed a lot since then, trying new things and learning from other chefs who have come and gone in the meantime. I’ve really honed my craft in my time spent here.
WHAT STYLE IS YOUR COOKING?
I love to try new things: new flavours, new ingredients and new combinations. I love that I can bring something different to Lusty Beg by combining my Indian heritage with the local fish and produce of Fermanagh, bringing the people here something new while also paying homage to traditional Irish meals. I would love to make a curry using locally-sourced fish from Fermanagh.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
We are passionate about using local produce. This way everything is as fresh and tasty while also promoting trade in the area. The fresh fish and vegetables that we get really add an extra dimension to the dishes that we cook.
WHAT SIZE IS YOUR STAFF?
We have quite a big team, there’s seven of us working in the kitchen, many of them have been here as long as I have. We have all learned from each other over the years and we get on really well.
WHOSE CAREER WOULD YOU WISH TO EMULATE?
No one’s. I would like to forge a unique career for myself that others would like to emulate. Maybe Gordon Ramsay so I could shout at people, but they say I don’t have it in me to be nasty.
HAVE YOU ANY INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF WORK?
Family is very important to me, I have a daughter who will be three in February and I love spending time with her. I want her to grow up and follow her own path, but I would love to impart my love of cooking onto her the way my mother did for me. Cooking and family go hand in hand for me.