Tag Archives: Culinary Arts

Aitken Spence Team Gets Ready for the Culinary World Cup 2010

14 Jun

Heritance Ahungalla and Heritance Kandalama celebrated their jubilant win in the recently concluded 13th annual Sri Lankan Chefs Guild Culinary Art Competition by selecting the most outstanding winners of the competition to participate in the Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) 2010 held in Singapore from 20th to 23rd April 2010.
The FHA Culinary Challenge, held once every two years, is hailed as Asia’s largest and world’s third largest culinary competition and exhibition. A platform for recognizing true culinary talents, the competition symbolizes the pinnacle of excellence as hundreds of practitioners in the food & beverage industry worldwide gather to prove their mettle. It is a celebration of culinary talents from all over the world, with participation from almost 500 chefs from 22 countries and regions this year.
As such, it was with delight that the team from Heritance Ahungalla and Heritance Kandalama participated in this prestigious event in preparation for the forthcoming Culinary World Cup which will be held in Luxemburg later on this year.  The Heritance Hotels and Resorts culinary team has been invited to team up with the Golden Horse Shoe Culinary team from Canada.
Aitken Spence Hotels has had tremendous success in the World Culinary Cup in the past with its Group Skills Development Chef, master chef Dimuthu Kumarasinghe bringing glory and pride to Sri Lanka and to Aitken Spence by securing 9 Gold Medals at the Culinary World Cup 2004 and Culinary Olympics 2006 creating history as the 1st individual to win 9 Gold medals at a World Cup competition. Chef Dimuthu’s accomplishments not only brings credit and fame to Sri Lanka, but also reflect on Aitken Spence Hotels, who have encouraged him and given him the opportunity to develop his talents, to innovate and to create.
The Aitken Spence Hotels culinary team who participated in the Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) Culinary Challenge comprised of Chef Pradeep Fonseka [Pasty Chef, Heritance Ahungalla], H E Indika Danusha [Demi Chef De Partie, Heritance Ahungalla], H Nuwan Prasanga Silva [Demi Chef De Partie, Heritance Ahungalla], S Mahendra Samarathunga [Chef De Partie, Heritance Kandalama] and Chamara Dilshan de Silva [Management Trainee, Heritance Kandalama].
The ability to send a team of Sri Lankan champion culinary artists to the highest world competition is testament to the strong training culture prevalent in Aitken Spence, which allows new and young talent to grow.

Aitken Spence Hotels, which operates an award-winning chain of hotels and resorts  in four countries in South Asia and the Middle East has steadily gained fame for its exquisite food and culinary art. Over a period of time the reputation gained in this specialisation has helped to position the chain of hotels as one the best in the region.

Media Release – 12 June 2010

The Edible Route

8 Apr

In January 1975, Gemunu Goonewardena was a kitchen trainee, starting his career at the Neptune Hotel, shortly after the property’s opening. He continued working at the Neptune, whilst attending hotel school and in 1983 he joined the newly opened Palm Village for a brief period before being posted back to the Neptune Hotel, this time as Executive Chef.

Aitken Spence sponsored a course conducted by the Culinary Institute of America in 1985. In 1987 he migrated to Australia where worked and studied before returning to Aitken Spence in 1991 as a consultant. Now a Director, Gemunu Goonewardena fervently believes in coaching and empowering staff and “Developing people through work.”

On his return from Australia, Gemunu had been given the task of streamlining Food & Beverage operations at all the hotels. He did this by setting up standard operating procedures and putting in place minimum quality standards for food and beverage operations; his expertise was called on to give direction on proper infrastructure facilities for new hotels and for creating a working environment that was conducive, by allocating proper resources and giving leadership. Today Gemunu Goonewardena is heavily involved in ensuring that F&B staff are well-trained.

When asked how he went about the daunting task of streamlining F & B operations in all the properties, Gemunu cites three main tasks. The first and foremost he says was to train the staff by inspiring a passion for service, this he does by speaking to each individual, getting to know them and encouraging their aspirations. It is only then that Gemunu mentions the steps that have been put in place to guarantee that clientele are ensured of the same high quality standards at any Aitken Spence hotel. All suppliers have been given specifications for each product purchased and food is stored separately so as to preserve their unique individual flavours. In addition to internal checks and procedures for ensuring high quality food, Aitken Spence also has ISO 22,000 certification in several hotels and is working towards making this a norm for all hotels in the group.

Gemunu Goonewardena’s love of his job and his loyalty to Aitken Spence is evident when he speaks of his role in staff training, saying that each individual must be trained, moulded and allowed to grow. He says “You have to believe in people,” and when asked what he felt his greatest achievement was he simply says “My biggest pride today is that my chefs in all the hotels are much better than me”. He is proud to see the immense talent of the people who work in the different properties and to have watched them grow and develop from trainees to managers, now training others in turn, passing on and sharing knowledge, he says, “It’s like a tonic to see what they have achieved.”

Moreover, Mr. Goonewardena stresses that his journey has not been made alone, nor without help and that he will always grateful to the company, superiors (past and present) and to his colleagues for the their support, encouragement and values. Citing colleagues Amal Nanayakkara (now General Manager Training) and Ravi De Silva (whose sustainability principles guide the group’s activities) as particular examples, Mr. Goonewardena adds that his work has been facilitated by all departments, from training and engineering to finance, purchasing and marketing; he says he is truly appreciative of everyone he has had the pleasure of working with as each and everyone has contributed in some way, to make his career and his ideas for improvement, a success.

Ace Magazine – 2010

Aitken Spence Group of Hotels: Best Sri Lankan resort culinary team

9 Mar

by Jayanthi Liyanage

Aitken Spence Group of Hotels emerged as the Best Sri Lankan Resort Culinary Team at Culinary Art 2010, the 13th Food and Hotel Exhibition presented by Chefs Guild of Lanka at the BMICH in early February.

The group of eight hotels and tower restaurant in Colombo had fielded 219 entries and clinched a medal tally of 138. “Our success rate was 63 percent,” Assistant General Manager – Training, Aitken Spence Hotel Managements, Susantha Gunawardana said, explaining that the win had been obtained from a total of 1,600 entries presented by 121 hotels. Aitken Spence Hotels hauled a massive medal count of 43 Golds, 44 Silvers and 51 Bronzes.

From the group’s hotels, Kandalama and Ahungalla had succeeded in obtaining 42 and 48 medals respectively, as against more modest winners of Earls, Browns, Ramada, Tower, Tea Factory, Hill Top and Beruwala hotels. Kandalama won 17 Golds, eight Silvers and 17 Bronzes while Ahungalle won 16 Golds, 19 Silvers and 13 Bronzes. Earls received a medal tally of 15.

Kandalama and Ahungalla bagged three golds each in the competitive event ‘five course set dinner menu”. For Kandalama, another three golds came from the event ‘plated appetizer”, two golds each from ‘fruit and vegetable carving’ and ‘arrack cocktail.’ Ahungalla bagged three golds in ‘arrack cocktail’ and two golds in ‘plated appetizer.’

Seven hotel staff members excelled at the competition. H.E. Indika Danushka, Demi Chef De Patie, won two Golds, one Silver and Bronze each and a special award for Most Outstanding Pastry Show Piece, Dress the Cake, Petit Fours and Plated Dessert. Pradeep Fonseka, Pastry Chef, won one Gold, Silver and Bronze each for Most Outstanding Plated Dessert, Petit Fours and Dress the Cake.

Chathuri Jayasundara, Restaurant Receptionist, won a Gold and a special award for Most Outstanding Creative Coffee Competition. W. Dinesh Chaminda, 2nd Commis, won a Gold and a special award for Most Outstanding Bakery Show Piece. Sulari Thabrew, Restaurant Receptionist and a student of Aitken Spence School of Hospitality, won three Golds and two special awards for Most Outstanding Anchor Beer Cocktail, Most Outstanding Sunquick Mocktail and Arrack Cocktail.

These five staff members are from Heritance Ahungalla.

The other two winners are from Heritance Kandalama. S. Mahendra Samaratunga, Chef de Patie, who won three Golds and a special award for Plated Dessert, Dress the Cake, Petiti Fours and Most Outstanding Pastry Chef. Chamara Dilhan de Silva, Management Trainee, won two Golds and a Special Award for Most Outstanding Plated Appetizer and Five Course Set Menu.


Pradeep Deepal Gunaratne joined Aitken Spence Hotels four years ago. Today, he works at the Tower Restaurant in Colombo. At the recent Culinary Art 2010, he won a Gold in the ‘arrack cocktail’ event. Chandana Athukorale who works in the same venue, joined the company two-and-a-half years ago. He won a Bronze in ‘live hot cooking’.

Although training and development is costly, Aitken Spence Hotel Managements (Pvt) Ltd has been very strong in that component, said General Manager-Training Amal Nanayakkara. “The staff is encouraged to make mistakes and experiment with dishes.” Aitken Spence Hotels encourages staff with an inspiring leadership from Director Gemunu Goonewardene and four Corporate Chefs Dimuthu Kumarasinghe, Lalith Gunasekera, Ramish Hassim and Ratnapala. Incidentally, Kumarasinghe won six Golds at IKA Culinary Olympics Erfurt in Germany in 2004. “Director Goonewardena’s conceptualization made it all possible,” said Nanayakkara. “He is responsible for pushing ahead with an extraordinary special kitchen for Kandalama in 1994. Fifteen years later, that investment paid dividends.”

Director Goonewardene spoke of the importance to transfer knowledge to the next generation.”From 14,000 rooms today, tomorrow we need to increase to 35,000 more rooms.

This means 70,000 more staff.” Explaining the heritance concept, he said that the idea has been to bring out the best in the young generation whose parents were attached to the company. “Children are given the opportunity to join the trade force and join our school. They are developed by us and heritance values encouraged. So, ownership is always there. That way, we develop our emotional capital.”

Heritance philosophy involves absorbing staff from the area the hotels are built in. Village youngsters who joined the company have come to the level of managers. “We also train employees to be sensitive to their environment and respect the people of the area.,” said Goonewardene.

“The village people are proud of the hotel as they feel they own it. These links can be developed only if you respect the place. You are not exploiting but utilizing the resources. Heritance cuisine is about enhancing the food ingredients of the area. A very integral part of culinary art is how we showcase the heritance philosophy and harness raw talent.”

Nanayakkara said that the company has taken in 24 students from the Eastern Province. “There is much potential in Eastern Province for tourism. Beaches and the archaeological sites there are fantastic. Places like Nilaveli and Kuchchaveli can easily be developed. Even though we have not built a hotel there, we thought ahead and took this batch who are now being trained at Kandalama.”

Tourism is a 100 percent Sri Lankan product, emphasised Nanayakkara. “We need to make tourism our number one foreign exchange earner. Tourism and development is connected in places like Habarana, Ahungalla and Kandalama. They are developed tremendously because one hotel came up. The trickle down effects to the economy and to the area has been tremendous.”

Tourism is also a fantastic opportunity for women’s development, he added. “Sri Lankan women are service-oriented, very friendly and exceptionally beautiful. They can make use of the hospitality industry not only as hostesses and receptionists but also in the wider sections of housekeeping and kitchen. Women should play a vital role in the tourism industry,” he concluded.

As seen on Dailynews.lk on 6 March 2010
Link: http://www.dailynews.lk/2010/03/06/fea60.asp

Media Release – 09 March 2010

Aitken Spence Hotels reaffirmed as Sri Lanka’s Best Culinary Team

22 Feb

Culinary Art 2010, an event organised by the Chef’s Guild of Sri Lanka awards top achievers in the field of culinary arts; namely, restaurateurs, star category hotel chefs, airline caterers and hotel schools including competitors from  Maldivian hotels. Offering visitors with stunning feasts for the eye, the event is Sri Lanka’s biggest annual food and hotel show held at the BMICH from February 5th – 8th 2010.

Aitken Spence Hotels, once again maintained its reputation for the best culinary tradition in the country. Sri Lanka’s leading resort operator walked away with a total of 136 medals which included 43 Gold’s, 44 Silver’s and 49 Bronze’s. Its flagship hotels, Heritance Ahungalla and Heritance Kandalama were placed first and second respectively in the Gold Medal tally.

Some of the key performers who won special awards for their achievements in individual competition were: Sulari Thabrew, Chathuri Jayasundara, H E Indika Danushka, Pradeep Fonseka and W Dinesh Chaminda of Heritance Ahungalla; S Mahendra Samataunga and Chamara Dilhan De Silva of Heritance Kandalama.

Media Release – 22 February 2010