Chennai: Canadians at Ottawa love to throng at ‘Coconut Lagoon’, a restaurant run by Kerala-based Chef Joe Thottungal. Since 2004, diners love to taste the restaurant’s ‘authentic South Indian Cuisine’. In fact, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the restaurant to savour the delicious meals they offer.
Joe will soon be launching his culinary book, ‘Coconut Lagoon: Recipes from a South Indian Kitchen’ on 17 March at Kochi. Joe’s idea to write this book came up when he found that many people from the West only knew about North Indian cuisine. ‘I wanted them to know more about South Indian food,’ he says. ‘I have written 80 recipes and they are very simple.’
Tasting new experiences
Speaking with News Today, Joe shared us his journey from Kerala to Canada. ‘I started cooking when I was 12,’ he recalls. ‘I helped my mother in the kitchen and I used to make simple snacks. Slowly, I became more passionate about cooking.’
Joe’s father supported him when he opted for a hotel management course in Chennai. Here, he came under the tutelage of Chef Damu. ‘He was brilliant,’ praises Joe. ‘The training I got here was unbelievable. The hotel industry in India is amazing.’ He later moved to Mumbai and worked at the Leela and then hopped to the Middle East and finally settled in Canada.
Sharing cultural roots
Joe says once he came to Canada, he worked at different hotels to ‘learn the system’. Finally, after decades of hard work, Joe was a happy man to open his restaurant, ‘Coconut Lagoon’. ‘We never imitate other restaurants,’ says Joe. ‘People love our food because we serve traditional meals.’
Joe is also excited to share the fact that every year, he organises a culinary tour, inviting many of his Canadian friends to India. This year, Joe along with Bestway Tours and Safaris, took Canadians to several South Indian cities. ‘They are surprised by the plethora of spices and dishes originating here,’ says Joe. ‘Food connects people and culture. Food is a brilliant way to bridge friendship. If someone comes to your home and if you serve them food, it means you give them your heart and love.’
Food for thought
Joe is generous to share tips for aspiring chefs. ‘Be punctual. Love what you do. Experience makes a man perfect,’ he says. ‘There are many ways to cook a dish. Recipes are just a guideline. Be ready to try new ideas. Learn the basics and work with different people.’ He adds, ‘Also, never forget your roots. It is important to know about the food you used to eat as you grew up. India has a vibrant cuisine and we should share it with rest of the world.’ For details visit, www.coconutlagoon.ca