Koluu takes a bow
After seven years in the gourmet business,
the well-known chef takes a six-month break hoping to come back
healthier, shapelier and with something new on the menu
It is the blessing and the burden of some people to be the purveyors
of change. These unique individuals not only rattle the cage with
the things they do, say and choose but also, quite simply, by the
way they live – day in, day out. Hemalalindra “Koluu”
Ranawake – master chef, flamboyant Drag Queen, businessman,
actor, local celebrity, globe trotter and friend to many –
is one such man.
close to several years now, Koluu’s clutch of restaurants
have dominated the local cuisine scene and the man himself has become
something of a celebrity, having garnered a reputation as an eccentric
but nevertheless brilliant chef. Today, however, you only have to
pass by one of his closed up, deserted establishments to know that
change has raised its head. Koluu has closed all his outlets including
Tulips on Duplication Road and Frangipani on Havelock Road. But
the questions still remain…Why? What is he going to do next?
Where do we go when we crave his signature triple layered chocolate
offers the answers to all these questions in his disarmingly candid
style. “I’m on a six-month break,” he says smiling.
“It’s been seven years in the business and it feels
like all I’ve done is put on more and more weight each year.”
Weight – that’s first on Koluu’s list of things
to lose in the coming months – “I need to get my health
and my shape back on track,” he says.
goes on to reveal that the challenge of working with his restaurants
has paled somewhat, especially since he does not consider himself
a “financial wizard”.
original restaurant – simply titled Koluu’s was a runaway
success before it shut down a few years ago and his other restaurants
were doing equally well.
In a city where it seems restaurants rise and fall with the sun,
such success is not to be scoffed at. Koluu, who is well aware of
his popularity, maintains that he has good reasons for all these
decisions. He admits ruefully to having made mistakes, “sometimes
my choice of location could have been better,” he says. However,
he also gives hope to avid fans of his culinary creations. He intends
to continue his partnership with the Barefoot Café and will
still offer his catering services to those interested.
this does not mean that Koluu is putting himself on the shelf -
far from it. He intends to use his six-month break not only to relax,
unwind and sort through his priorities but also to explore his options
thoroughly. “I have discovered that I really love teaching,”
he says, adding that he hopes to open a select culinary school around
May next year. Adjoining the school will be a small specialised
restaurant, designed along European lines with a minimum number
of support staff and Koluu as the fulcrum.
him, this move will mark a return to the simpler life, one reminiscent
of his time in Portugal where along with an English boy and Canadian
girl he took the local gourmet scene by storm.
also wishes to look into the possibility of compering local shows
and pageants – a task to which he is well suited not only
thanks to his expansive personality but by virtue of his experiences
all, he points out it was a team that included the likes of Ranil
de Silva, Rosie Senanayake and himself who actually organised the
island’s first international standard beauty pageants. This
line of conversation segues seamlessly into what Koluu thinks is
the most important ingredient in his success – originality.
here has the herd mentality,” he says lamenting the lack of
real innovation amongst many entrepreneurs today. He intends to
remedy this where he can by taking on numerous jobs as a consultant
for those wanting to immerse themselves in the treacherous waters
of the food industry.
his determination to step away from the business for a while at
least, Koluu has received many offers to open restaurants with new
partners – testament to people’s faith in his selling
power. Koluu, however, is refusing to budge from his six-month plan.
the meantime he wants to continue with his infamous but entertaining
drag shows for as long as he can, though he does admit that the
requisite footwear is beginning to wear him down. “Perhaps
I’ll have just one more huge show and then I’ll hang
up my heels for good,” he says adding that, “I’ll
wait until I’ve lost at least ten kg.”
does he do it, especially since hand in hand with the attention
comes quite a bit of notoriety? Well, he may love the gaudy clothes,
the prima donnas who share the stage with him and even the heels
he wears but most of all, he reveals, it’s about his audience.
“I really enjoy entertaining people,” he says, “everyone
needs a little lightness now and then.”