While he confesses to not having a sweet tooth, Radisson Blu’s Udesh Nalaka sure knows how to whip up fantastic combination desserts.
With more than 260 upscale hotels across Europe, Africa and Asia, you’ve probably heard of Radisson Blu by now. Just recently, the hotel was launched in Nairobi at a grand affair full of pomp and circumstance, complemented by a delicious array of food at the all day dining Larder Restaurant and Al fresco Pool Bar and Grill, all crowned by an energetic performance from Sauti Sol. Set in the buzzing business district of Upper Hill, I have since popped in twice, once to check out the stylish recently opened steak house, The Chop House.
Udesh Nalaka is the talented Executive Pastry Chef behind the decadent creations at the hotel. Originally from Sri Lanka, the 5 ft 4 chef’s resume paints quite the geographical map. He has worked at five star hotels in 10 locations in the 15 years he’s been whipping up pastries. Udesh’s journey reads: Crowne Plaza Dubai, Four Seasons Saudi Arabia, Grand Hyatt followed by Monarch Hotel Dubai, Crowne Plaza Bahrain, Oryx Rotana in Qatar, Kempinski Seychelles Resort, InterContinental Doha, and finally, keen on moving to Africa, got his current job in Nairobi. His passion to travel comes from wanting to experience different locations and their cuisine firsthand rather than just reading about them online. All this was however kickstarted by a four month Diploma in Pastry and Bakery back in Sri Lanka, followed by hands on training in the kitchen. Now at 35, he has never looked back and can’t imagine himself doing anything else.
Going through the dessert menu, it is clear that the chef favours combination desserts where two or more items are layered to create the perfect tasty treat. The raspberry and ginger mousse not only packs a visually artistic punch, but the contrast of sweet and sour on the palate makes it an instant hit. The hot and cold ginger cake from the menu at Chop House is not only a combination but also plays around with temperature for the ultimate explosion of goodness in your taste buds. You must also try apple crumble with ice cream which has the crumble, apple jelly and apple sauce. As expected, the chef is also adept at making the very basics- like macarons.
Having worked at various hotels and been part of a few pre-opening phases, Udesh is no stranger to adapting his menu to suit the local market. This being the first dessert menu at Radisson since its launch, he has been taking note of what patrons don’t like and will later replace those with popular choices. So far, for instance, he has observed that Kenyans seemingly steer towards dry cakes.
Chef Udesh’s confession to being not so-sweet tooth comes as a bit of surprise, especially given that he’s around sweets all day. This may also be the reason why, as he can’t enjoy them the way patrons who come in only every so often would. He does however indulge in the occasional Indian sweets like Ras Malai and Ras Gulla. Away from the kitchen, Udesh is big on sports which he unfortunately hasn’t been able to take part in since he moved to Nairobi. Chalk it up to being in full time operations since the hotel opened. It is however not all work and no play, as the chef still gets to enjoy down time with his wife who he married only one and a half years ago- after six months of dating.