Tag Archives: Bakeries

A Coffee with Chef Rajith!

6 Nov

Closer to my travel dates to Colombo I started doing my research on the bakeries I must visit while I’m there.  One common name showed up in almost all reviews – ‘Pebbles’ at Taj Samudra. It is rated as one of the best there, though I had my doubts. I know Taj serves the best quality food but in my mind the best bakeries are usually found in the most cosy and unexplored nooks and corners. But since I was staying there I thought it might be worth dropping in.

So there I was, at Pebbles on a cloudy evening in Colombo with a beautiful view of the ocean and a cup of cappuccino by my side as I waited for Pastry Chef Rajith Kalhara to join me.  Expecting a forty something year old man to join me (I assume it would take that long to reach such a prestigious position in one of the best hotel groups), I was startled when I was greeted by a humble, 29-year old who introduced himself as the pastry chef at Taj Samudra. Soon as he joined me, I knew I wasn’t going to chat with him about the desserts he had to offer there (well, the reviews and the delectable looking desserts spoke for themselves) but I wanted to hear his story and how he’s made it there.


Chef Rajith with some of his creations for the day

A Computer Science student by qualification, Chef Rajith discovered his love for food and creating it by chance when he decided to find a part time job on the side to support his education. Little did he know that a job at a Chinese restaurant will change his career and life forever.  From an assistant to the chef at the restaurant, in just about four years he was now the head chef himself. While Computer Science was long forgotten, he still felt the need to polish his baking skills, something he discovered his love for over time. That’s when he decided to do a course at PRIMA and in a year he was all set to venture into the baking world.

Looking back at his training years, he fondly remembers his experience at Taj Clubhouse in Chennai “It was one of the best experiences that prepared me to become a tough baker.  Stretched hours at work, almost upto 16 hours a day helped me become a perfectionist. I was literally breathing desserts. It was almost like my life revolved around it and the joy of creating made me more and more passionate about this profession everyday”. Now, for over 16 months he’s been cooking quite a storm at Pebbles.


Some of the best from the counter – Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake & Swiss Roll

So what makes Pebbles one of the most loved bakeries in Colombo? In the chef’s words, “Striving for excellence and perfection in whatever we do and create, that’s what the entire team works for”. The Chef is a big fan of traditional recipes and believes, deep down eventhough we all try innovative desserts, most of us feel happiest with a simple chocolate or sponge cake (I must agree, that statement hit a chord with me). No wonder, the daily spread of desserts include Chocolate Cakes, Swiss Rolls, Pineapple Upside Down Cakes, Walnut Brownies, Carrot Cakes and many more such popularly loved desserts. That doesn’t mean there’s no scope for experimentation. The chef also believes in doing the different and offering a variety to his regular visitors. “In any profession, innovation is important and as bakers we will continue to showcase our creativity with new additions and interesting recipes that are rare in Colombo”.

I can’t end this post without mentioning what a brilliant chocolatier the chef is. Though I did try the chocolates and absolutely loved them when I met him, what made me realize the amount of hard work that team of bakers puts in when I found a personalized chocolate box in my room in the night. With such massive volumes everyday, there is no compromise on the taste whatsoever!


Chocolates made at the Taj Samudra Bakery