CHEF DHARSHAN MUNIDASA HAS BEEN PRACTISING SUSTAINABILITY IN HIS RESTAURANTS LONG BEFORE THE TERM BECAME AN INDUSTRY BUZZWORD.
We’ve all heard the term “sustainability”, but what exactly does it mean?
Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.”
For most folks, sustainability is a relatively new concept that they are still learning. But for companies such as the BMW Group and chefs like Dharshan Munidasa, sustainability is deeply rooted in the way they work.
Dharshan, who hails from Sri Lanka, is his country’s most famous chef and restaurateur. He has five restaurants that include Nihonbashi and Ministry of Crab, which have both been listed on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants since 2015.
Dharshan talks about sustainability, his plans for a carbon-neutral restaurant and why the BMW X5 xDrive40e iPerformance is an SUV that suits his needs.
HOW DID YOU END UP BECOMING A CHEF?
I never studied culinary arts so it was by accident! As a child, I was quite greedy, so cooking was a way for me to feed myself. When I was a university student in the US, the food in the dorms was bad, so I would cook.
However, six months before I graduated, my father passed. I returned to Sri Lanka and six months later, we opened Nihonbashi.
HOW DO YOU PRACTISE SUSTAINABILITY IN YOUR RESTAURANTS?
We don’t import major ingredients such as tuna and crab as they are available in Sri Lanka. In fact, the country is one of Japan’s sources of tuna. Ministry of Crab is not air-conditioned. We don’t buy frozen ingredients and we don’t freeze our food.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY EATING AT HOME?
I try not to eat anything after 6pm. At one point in my life, I weighed over 100kg. I lost most of that weight by refraining from eating carbs. That said, the most dangerous part about coming to Singapore is that I end up eating too much. I love chicken rice, Hokkien mee and sambal stingray.
YOU WANT TO SET UP A RESTAURANT THAT SERVES CARBON-FREE SEAFOOD. HOW WOULD IT WORK?
The establishment would source all its seafood from fishermen who catch it using sailboats. So, if we only have 5kg or 10kg of fish for one day, that’s all we will commit to cooking and serving.
WHY WOULD THIS RESTAURANT HAVE AN END-DATE?
Running it would be a lot of work. Also, I don’t think it would make money. But I want to do this to make a statement and prove that it can be done.
WHAT MAKES THE BMW X5 xDRIVE40e iPERFORMANCE THE IDEAL CAR FOR YOU?
It’s a big and practical SUV. At the same time, the plug-in petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain makes it less expensive to run compared to regular SUVs. I find the BMW X5 xDrive40e iPerformance fun to drive. I also like how the technologies are seamlessly integrated.
GIVEN THE NATURE OF YOUR WORK, WOULD AN ELECTRIC VAN BE MORE SUITED TO YOUR NEEDS?
I don’t always have to move boxes, so, no. When choosing a car, one must also consider aesthetics, refinement and comfort in addition to performance!
WOULD AN ELECTRIC CAR LIKE THE BMW i3 BE EVEN MORE APPEALING TO YOU, GIVEN YOUR ECO-CONSCIOUS NATURE?
Yes. However, the electricity used to charge the car must also be generated in a clean manner.
YOU’RE PLANNING TO INSTALL SOLAR PANELS ON THE ROOF OF MINISTRY OF CRAB. ARE SOLAR PANELS STILL VERY EXPENSIVE?
Yes, they are still relatively expensive. Ministry of Crab doesn’t have air-conditioning, but we do use a lot of refrigerators and chillers. We use 10 chillers for wine alone. We have to calculate the load factor and power requirements to determine how many panels we need.
I like the thought of one of Asia’s best restaurants being solar-powered. I am going to install solar panels on my house as well!
Dharshan owns a BMW X5 xDrive40e iPerformance (below) and would like a BMW i3 (left), but says the electricity used to charge it must be generated in a clean manner.