Dish It Out: Kay Seneviratne

Jun 16 2022. views 322

How do our food experts cook and eat? This week, Chef Kay of Kay’s Kitchen takes our Q&A!

What made you want to be a chef? 
My earliest memory as a child was making cupcakes with a bowl and wooden spoon at the age of 6. My passion for food grew throughout my childhood, but it wasn’t until I went to the US to attend university, that I became obsessed with the TV Food Network which had launched a few years before.  After graduating from university, I moved to New York City to attend Culinary School and became a chef.

What started Kay’s Kitchen?
After living in the US for almost 20 years, I moved back to Sri Lanka in 2015 with my husband and son.  I spent 6 years trying out and cooking with local ingredients every day. I always cook for my friends and family and they encouraged me to start sharing my recipes, my way, using local ingredients, and that’s how Kay’s Kitchen was born.

As a brand collaborator, what’s something great about your job creating recipes with brands? 
When I work with brands, I attempt to create recipes that people can try out for themselves at home. This is a challenge as I need to re-compose a recipe so that it is clear and easy to follow using, not only the brand’s products but also other locally available ingredients.  I enjoy this challenge of re-inventing dishes my way, but what’s even better is when my amazing followers make these dishes and share their experiences with me.

Your proudest recipe developed for a brand so far? 
Although I did not develop this recipe for the brand, my most popular to date is Kay’s Kottu-Mee Ramen.  I took a simple Hot & Spicy Kottu-Mee and added lemongrass, coconut milk, chillie paste, topped off with a medium-boiled egg.  The response was unbelievable as this dish was made and enjoyed by many of my wonderful followers.

What was your favourite childhood meal? 
Hands down … my mom’s roast chicken, beetroot curry and rice! My sister and I asked for it as our first meal every time we returned home from boarding school. 

What’s something you love to eat but wouldn’t bother to make?
I love a good lamprais but I wouldn’t attempt it as it truly is a labour of love

It’s your last day on earth, where are you? 
I’m in New York City, at Michael Lomonaco’s restaurant “Porterhouse” enjoying a porterhouse steak with a side of pomme puree, creamed spinach and ending with a big salted caramel macaroon from Bouchon bakery.

Dead or alive, who would be your dream dinner-party guests to cook for? 
As long as I’m alive, my dream dinner guests will always be my son and husband.  Their favourite dish is my Kithul Glazed BBQ Ribs and my Key Lime Pie.

What’s the biggest food mistake Sri Lankans need to stop doing?
Overcooking pasta!  Pasta must always be ‘al dente’ which means it must be cooked all the way through but still have a bite to it. 

Your favourite odd food pairing? 
Chocolate and avocado, as odd as it sounds, go very well together.  If you are an avocado fan, try my Avocado-Chocolate Biscuit Pudding for an easy-to-make dessert.

What’s your signature style in your recipes? 
Rustic, comfort food made my way.  

Follow-the-recipe or just-wing-it? 
I always follow the recipe when it comes to baking and pastry, otherwise, you will not get the desired result. However, when it comes to cooking, I will get creative and wing it on occasion by substituting certain ingredients and using alternative methods, depending on what I have available.

What dish sounds hard to make but isn’t?

What’s the best meal you’d whip up to impress someone?
My braised lamb chops with mashed potatoes and my chocolate pots de creme.

Do the cooking or have someone cook for you?
I’m always excited to go out and try different foods that others cook for me but at home, I always do the cooking.

Your favourite recipe that has been passed down to you from family?
Mom’s roast chicken.  I’ve added my own twist to it along the way and hopefully, my son will do the same when I pass it down to him.

What’s your fail-proof dish that you’ve perfected and would recommend to anyone?
Kay’s Easy One-Pot Roast Chicken.

What’s the most adventurous food you’ve eaten?
Growing up in Zambia in the ’70s through the ’90s, I used to love eating a snack called Biltong.  Biltong is seasoned dried meat, very similar to beef jerky except, much bigger and made with wild game meat.  We never knew what meat we were eating, could have been Buffalo, Impala or Kudu meat.

What’s a dish you’d love to relive for the first time?
My aunty Priyani’s Baked Alaska … just thinking about it takes me back!


Panchali Illankoon

Law Graduate, food and travel enthusiast and full time dog mom..


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