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Taking the Long Road: A Culinary Journey to King Valley Golf Club

12 APR 2016

By Patricia Uribe

Chaminda Gamage took the long road on his way to becoming Executive Chef at King Valley Golf Club this spring−about 17,000 kilometres long. That’s the distance between Colombo, Sri Lanka via Tokyo, Japan to Toronto. Luckily for ClubLink Members, Gamage picked up some award winning tricks along the way.

After earning a degree in international cuisine, he worked as a novice chef at the Colombo Hilton. Over eight years, he honed his skills in all areas of the kitchen from pastry to sauces, before becoming chef de partie.

“That is where I discovered what it means to be a chef,” Gamage reminisces.

The desire to learn as much as possible fuelled his journey.

He took off for Japan to practice his French cuisine foundations in a different corner of the world. Working as a chef in a restaurant in Tokyo, he learned to speak Japanese and to fuse his Sri Lankan cultural roots with his European training to create unique dishes.

“Although my strongest preference is French cuisine, I love to create French/Sri Lankan and French/Asian fusion dishes,” he says.

After four years in Tokyo, he decided it was time to settle somewhere else. He discovered that Canada and Australia were both in need of trained chefs. He applied for a visa to both countries. His Canadian visa arrived first. By the luck of the draw, Gamage moved to Toronto, where he has worked at golf clubs ever since.

“I always think I’ll try to golf,” Gamage says, “but there is never enough time in the season. I love the golf club environment, however.”

Prior to becoming Executive Chef at King Valley in March, Gamage headed the kitchen at The Club at Bond Head. His favourite part of working there was planning and preparing food for larger formal plated dinner parties.

“It is exciting to send out 300 first courses at the same time, and fifteen minutes later to serve the second course,” he muses. “There is a thrill knowing everything is so perfectly orchestrated.”

Giuliano Cosentino, Food and Beverage Manager at Bond Head cannot stop raving about Gamage.

“Chaminda is the greatest chef I’ve worked with when it comes to the whole experience he delivers,” Cosentino says. “The food—which is unbelievable—is only one aspect. He ensures his staff learns something new every day and that the Members are beyond satisfied.”

According to Cosentino, Gamage’s greatest contribution while at The Club at Bond Head was his “Chef’s Table.” These intimate monthly dinners for 32 guests involve a unique seasonal menu.

Cosentino confesses he cannot name one dish of Gamage’s he prefers, “My favourite dishes are the amuse bouche and small appetizers. The flavours he develops are out of this world.”

What Gamage loves most is the opportunity to play in the kitchen, and then come into the dining room and explain how he made every course.

Being able to meet and build relationships with Members is a special part of his job. “I make it a point to walk through the restaurant during Men’s and Ladies’ days,” he says. “Learning what Members like is a treat.”

On a personal note, Gamage confesses, “I never cook at home!” His wife, a pastry chef, prepares all meals for him and their two daughters. The family does not eat meat, which seems ironic for a chef well known for his roasted rack of lamb (see recipe below).

“I taste everything I serve for flavour, but I choose not to take meat as a meal,” explains Gamage who stopped eating meat after visiting a pig farm in Sri Lanka.

Gamage has won several medals at culinary competitions in Canada, and a silver medal for his culinary artistry at the elite IKA World Culinary Olympics in Germany, a career highlight.

When not in the kitchen, the chef enjoys playing cricket—like a good Sri Lankan—and spending time with his girls.

Gamage would never consider another career.

“When I was young and cooked at home, I realized I was making people happy,” recalls Gamage. “I wanted a job where I could make others feel that way all the time.”

He has certainly spread that joy along his culinary journey.

RECIPES

SPRING MENU (4 SERVINGS)

by Executive Chef Chaminda Gamage, King Valley Golf Club

Recipe.png

MAPLE GLAZED ROAST RACK OF LAMB WITH SHALLOTS AND PISTACHIO CRUST

2            bone-in rack of lamb (16 chops)

½ tsp   fresh thyme, chopped

½ tsp   fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tsp     pure maple syrup

2            shallots, chopped

¼ cup  pistachios, chopped

¼ cup  butter

salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Season the racks of lamb with salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Sear the lamb on the stovetop in a roasting pan for three minutes. Sauté the shallots until translucent. In a bowl, stir the cooked shallots, pistachio and butter to form the crust.  Cover the lamb with the pistachio and shallot crust mixture. Roast for 11 minutes for medium rare or longer to desired temperature.

 

LEEK AND SCALLOPED POTATO FLAN WITH FRESH HERBS

1                           leek, sliced thinly

1                           onion, sliced thinly

4 large                Yukon gold potatoes, sliced thinly

¾ cup                 35% cream

1 clove               garlic, minced

½ tsp                  fresh thyme, chopped

½ tsp                  fresh rosemary, chopped

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease an 8 x 8 casserole dish. Layer the sliced potato, onion and leek in the dish. In a bowl, combine the cream, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the vegetables. Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and bake for 60 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

 

SAUTÉ OF GREEN ASPARAGUS, BABY CARROTS AND PARSNIPS

12                         green asparagus, trimmed and sliced into bite size pieces

8                           baby carrots

½ cup                parsnips, sliced into bite sized pieces

½ tsp                  fresh thyme, chopped

3 Tbsp                olive oil

salt and pepper

Blanch the vegetables and set them aside until ready to use. Just before serving, sauté the blanched vegetables in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh herbs.

 

PORT WINE AND BLUEBERRY JUS 

2                           shallots, chopped

1 Tbsp                butter

½ cup                port wine

½ pint                blueberries

2/3 cup             red wine jus*

salt and pepper

In a sauté pan, sweat the shallots in butter. Add the port wine and simmer until the volume is reduced to ¼. Add the red wine jus, fresh blueberries and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for ten minutes until slightly thickened.

*Red wine jus can be purchased at fine grocery stores. It can also be substituted with demi glace.