Sri Lankan-born chef Rishi Naleendra, who heads Cheek by Jowl, a Singaporean restaurant serving Australian cuisine, has become the first Sri Lankan to win a Michelin star. After working at top restaurants in Australia such as Taxi Kitchen in Melbourne, and Yellow and Tetsuya’s in Sydney, he opened Cheek by Jowl with restaurateur Loh Lik Peng earlier this year.
“Ever since reading The Perfectionist (by Rudolph Chelminski), I wanted (a Michelin star); I really wanted it. It still feels like a dream,” Naleendra was quoted as saying on the Michelin Guide website. Although he didn’t want to follow after his father, who used to run a restaurant before starting a catering business, Naleendra fell in love with the profession when he began working part-time in an Australian café .
His ‘modern Australian’ cuisine is far more complex than it at first seems and his confidence in the ingredients pays dividends in fresh tasting dishes that display a number of influences. Rishi and his wife Manuela picked the name Cheek by Jowl which refers to their dream of working side by side, in their own restaurant. According to Rishi he works his magic in the kitchen, she keeps the front of house running smoothly and shows him where the lights are, because he always forgets.