The Oyster Box Ocean Terrace
The Oyster Box Ocean Terrace
Image: Supplied

What is your earliest food memory? I was nine-years-old and my mom was in hospital, so I went into the kitchen to try my hand at cooking.  It worked out so well, and I liked that ... so I tried it more often. In fact, I've never left. 

My other memories are of going to tearooms in town.  It was a big deal and a rare outing, because in those days no Indians were allowed into dining establishments, but the experience made a big impression on me.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career? I had an incredible mentor in Chef Hans Bachmann at the Umhlanga Sands. He inspired me and I’ve never looked back. Another one of my mentors, Chef Werner Koch at The Royal Hotel, was really strict and gave the young chefs a hard time but it forced us to raise our game and be the best we could be.

Favourite comfort food? Pasta in general. One of my favourites is fettuccine with mushroom and chicken.

What do you order in a restaurant? Steak, medium-rare, with a good sauce – maybe mushroom.

Kitchen essentials? My garnishing tools and a sharp knife (I have more than 30 knives in my collection) – it’s a chef thing!

Pantry staples? Cumin, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon, garlic, caraway seeds, butter, tomatoes, onions

Best way to unwind? I had a heart-attack last year, so now I take life a little more easily and slowly. I love spending time in my garden, and with my wife, children and grandchildren. My family are the central part of my life outside of the kitchen.

Your top tip for home cooks? Slow cooking is the best way to cook, especially for curries and any other dish that needs time for the flavours to develop.

Career highlights? As a young chef, I travelled internationally and took part in many competitions – many of which I won, this gave me a lot of confidence. 

Oyster Box Hotel head chef Luke Nair.
Oyster Box Hotel head chef Luke Nair.
Image: Supplied
The Oyster Box Hotel curry.
The Oyster Box Hotel curry.
Image: Supplied

When I was at The Royal, I was the first non-white Executive Sous Chef in a five-Star hotel in South Africa. I cooked for Tony Blair and Al Gore, made high tea for Prince Charles and Lady Diana, and cooked all meals for the Queen for four days. Her favourite dishes were a mild and creamy version of The Royal’s famous chicken and prawn curry, and at the State Dinner at The Royal she really enjoyed the South African fresh fruit terrine and the main course of double herb-crusted loin of lamb.

Top culinary destination? France. I love the cuisine, style and the attitude to food.

Next big food trend? Eastern influences are making a resurgence – curries, Chinese, Japanese, stir-fries, dipping sauces – as well as vegan and healthy eating.

What are you reading and watching and the moment? Chopped and the Bible.

Do you collect anything? I used to breed and collect Koi Fish, but they take up a lot of time. I’m looking forward to picking it up again when I retire.

An Indulgence you would never forgo? After my triple-bypass in 2019, I had to cut down and cut out so much, but the one indulgence I haven’t been able to conquer is my sweet tooth.

What do you think sets a meal at the Oyster Box apart from other dining experiences? Every meal is treated with love and care.

What is your favourite area at the Oyster Box Hotel? The kitchen. You experience every human emotion in the kitchen, and I love it. From joy to tears, love to anger, shouting and laughing, it all happens in the kitchen!

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