Dush Ratnayake is a name synonymous with one of kind, delicious biscuit pudding in Sri Lanka. The ‘Bellissima’ Chocolate Biscuit Pudding is known by anyone in Sri Lanka with a soft spot for life altering desserts.
With his interesting background when it comes to cooking, Dush will be launching his first cook book end of this year titled ‘Kitchen Reboot’. It will include a fusion of dishes that will capture parts of his youth, and to discover more we met with Dush to talk about his journey.
Dush’s love for food and his inclination to soul food began at a very small age, when his family would have a ‘Chinese Night’ every month on a Friday.
They’d order up a feast from Flower Drum, and Dush fell in love with the chilli paste. He would eat it before the meal while his family wondered whether Flower Drum simply forgot the chilli paste.
When he was about 7, he tried to make it in the kitchen and got caught by his grandmother. Instead of disapproving his naughty actions, she helped him in the kitchen to make his version of the chilli paste.
He remembers that she never interfered, just helping with the tasks he couldn’t (or shouldn’t) do by himself. He eventually perfected the chilli paste as well as a fried rice to go with it, and had a small taste of cooking with love.
By the time he was a teenager he could make pastries and would feed his friends. Influenced by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he learnt how to make pizza, and along with his cheese toasties, he started feeding his friends, family, and his neighbours. Dush only ever cooked for fun… for the love of food that he enjoyed making. He loved feeding his loved ones, and that’s what he did.
When he moved to the US, his experience with living with housemates and volunteering at the International Office, he made a weird mix of friends from all around the world. He says his house became almost a ‘halfway house’ for everyone, and they get together in the kitchen to cook different dishes from their home countries.
Dush says that this moment ignited a passion within him; seeing all the different dishes, discovering similarities and the allure of obscure food.
He felt like he was peeling layers of cooking and for the first time, he was conscious of his love for cooking.
He was amazed by the different ways a dish could be cooked, and he wished he lived long enough to try all the dishes in the world.
Since moving back to Colombo, Dush has worked at many places creating unique menus with fusion dishes.
During his days at Goethe Institut, the Bellissima brand was born. His brother’s idea was the name to be Italian, and capturing the romance, the passion, and Dush’s favourite painting, The Birth of Venus, Ruwangi Amarasinghe did the logo design. At one point, he had 30 different flavours of cheesecake under the name.The Bellissima chocolate biscuit pudding came while he was working with Andrew Obeysekera, and taking a spin on a classic dessert, they came up with their own taste. The rest, as they say, was history.
Capturing his experiences cooking for his family and friends, as well as the feel of the kitchen back when he was in university cooking with his friends, all Dush wants to do is put the soul back into food; to truly step out of the norm and celebrate the different dishes available around the world.
With his new cookbook, he hopes to capture the soul of the home by offering a cookbook that will allow you to cook with ten simple ingredients found around the house.