Mr. Lalu Surdiham is the chef in charge of Sky Lounge and Restaurants in Eko Hotel and Suites. He arrived in the Nigerian hospitality scene in 2008 and since then he hasn't looked back. For Mr. Lalu, creativity and the ultimate satisfaction of his clients are the key to his art. To him Cuisine is art. Pulse.com.ng sat down to talk with Mr. Lalu in light of the upcoming Club Bar and Restaurants Awards where e was nominated for Chef of the Year.
My name is Lalu Surdiham and I manage Sky Lounge, Kitchens and Restaurant. I'm the chef in Sky Restaurant.
How long have you managed Sky Restaurants?
We started in Jan 2008; I came here to open Sky Restaurant but before Sky I've travelled to different countries like Ukraine, Dubai, Jordan, Muscat, Omar and Brunei, Indonesia and Bali. My culinary skills spans over 20 years.
I started in 1990 when I finished culinary school in Bali. It was a huge surprise when I first came here. The restaurant had not opened and the concept had not been defined so I tried to bring my own concept which is Asian cuisine. I saw a lot of things that we could do here
How would you say the hospitality and night-life industry in Nigeria is compared to our foreign counterparts?
Nigeria is almost like any other city in the world, time passes before you even realise it. I think Lagos is like a little country of its own but it has room to grow. But it will be better.
How do you manage finding ingredients for your cooking?
The spices you have here are similar to the one we have in my country. And so I just combine with other things I get from Europe mainly fish and sea food. We create the ingredients and the sauce with a very nice flavour. We make a very nice menu too
What does Sky lounge have to offer in terms of menu?
We have a special menu. Though our menu is not repetitive, we like to keep in touch with our customers tastes. So if they return to sky restaurants, we can cater to their specific tastes. But our speciality is Asian fusion. For example I use my oxtail curry that makes the food very tender with lemon grass, ginger, onion until its really tender then combine with Thai spice and African spice too.
How is business so far?
Business moves very fast. we cater to the upper end clientèle so everything has to go right.
How has the experience been so far?
Its nice to be here because its a new experience cooking here. In Dubai or other countries, you know where to get your spice but here you have to wrack your brains a bit to find what you are looking for. Because all the spices are not readily available, you need to find something to substitute which leads to creative new dishes.
Do you ever try local dishes?
I try local dishes because I like them a lot. For example, I use yam but I put mushrooms, cream, spinach, and other spices. Also I work with plantain, I try to create my own style instead of boiling, frying or grilling the plantain. I make plantain salsa with mangoes or I put breadcrumbs and fry it with a little spice. Its like you watch on TV, you just want to eat it.
Tell us about the awards ceremony that you have been nominated in.
The Clubs Bars and Restaurants Hospitality Awards is interesting and i feel happy. Not just for me but for me and my team. Without them I cannot have done it alone.
Whats the plan for Sky Lounge?
There are a lot more competitiors out there, Raddison Blu, Intercontinental and a lot more. First we willmaintain our quality but offer more atrractive dishes on their menu. We depend on word of mouth so we have to make sure that we are up to standard. the plan is to get more creative, create something new, maybe bring in a new chef.
Who form the bulk of your clientèle: Are they local residents or foreign expatriates?
They are a mix but more of the expatriates. we have had visits from Governor Fashola, Senators, Mr. Dangote, Adenuga and the like.
Are your family here with you or do you go back to visit?
Well I'm originally from Indonesia and my family is here. They have settled in nicely but there are not many places to go. However most times when we want to relax, we go to the beach.