Interview with Rabindran Ramachandran, the man behind Interlude, TTDI
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
I initially went to Melbourne Australia for a diploma in Hospitality Management. Part of the course required me to work in a restaurant. It was there that I got my first glimpse of a commercial kitchen and I was hooked. I had decided to pursue a career in the kitchen, but this was cut short as my parents were not keen on me taking up this discipline, they wanted me to get a degree, so after much discussion I struck a deal with them. If I completed my degree they would allow me to take up culinary studies. After having completed my Bachelor of Business I went to culinary school and proceeded to work in a few good kitchens, The Hotel Windsor on Spring and the Hilton on the Park to name a few.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
When I came back to set up Interlude in Taman Tun, many have asked me regarding the origin of that particular name. My reply has always been, “Do you want the short or the long story?”
The short story is the obvious one which basically describes Interlude as a place to relax and take some time out.
The long version is:
On our second week of opening I had a visit from a gentlemen who requested to speak to the chef. It was a late rainy night and we were pretty quiet at the time. I walked up to him and introduced myself. He started off by telling me that he had previously worked for the Good Food Guide and started interrogating me on my credentials. He specifically questioned my choice in using the word Interlude for my place. The point was that chef Robbin Wickens had previously run a restaurant in Melbourne called Interlude and this person was under the impression that I had ‘appropriated’ the name. I clarified by telling him my story.
After having completed my culinary studies it was hard to look for a job especially without an Australian PR. The one place I really wanted to work in was Interlude on Fitzroy street. After mustering the courage to ask Robbin Wickens for a chance to work in his kitchen, he told me that they’d be moving to a bigger premise and that I could come in for a trial then. Hedging my bets, I had also secured an interview at the Hotel Windsor. They too told me that they would get back to me. Two weeks had passed and I was doing trials and part time work while waiting for a reply. It was a Monday afternoon when The Hotel Windsor called and asked me to come in to work. Hours after signing with them, I received a call from Interlude telling me I was hired too. Turning them down was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. So I told myself that I would work in Interlude one day.
When I eventually left The Hotel Windsor some four years later Interlude had already closed their doors and Chef Robbin Wickens had opened a new establishment in the city. Having come back to Malaysia I thought that it would be an appropriate name to call my shop Interlude as I had promised to work there someday. The moral of the story is that it does not pay to be an arrogant person, although that guest had worked for the Good Food Guide and thought he knew everyone, he obviously does not know what my story was or how hard I had to work too get to where I am today. The other part of the story is that if there is something that you want to achieve, go for it but never forget it will come if you work hard to achieve it. I’m glad to be back in Malaysia. I feel this is my way to contribute back to my homeland.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of my job is to see the satisfaction on customers faces when they are presented with their food. Working on special dinner menus, be it a wine dinner or special functions at the shop challenges us to come up with creative dishes. This would probably be one of the things I most look forward to.
The term Murphy’s law comes into play when we discuss the worst part of the job. Because hospitality is such an eventful industry there is always some form of drama on a daily basis. In most cases staying calm and collected is normally the best way to resolve most issues. I’m not going to touch on the fact that we have really long hours, we don’t get to see family as often as our friends. Friends? Actually that’s a myth your colleges become your friends. These and many more setbacks are all part and parcel of when working in this industry.
What’s your favourite meal/ drink at Interlude?
Favourite? There are many things that I like. I strongly believe that variety is the essence of life and I think if you ask any foodie not many would settle for just one thing. But if it’s got to be one drink, I always fancy, a good Mojito. I had some of the best during my years in Melbourne – Siglo’s and Bar Liu come straight to mind. When I do crave my Mojito, Marvin our bartender in Interlude never disappoints. I think a lot of how bars downplay the importance of muddling and for me soda water and mint syrup is a definite red flag in my books.
With my hectic schedule, its not too often that I get to cook on my days off. If time permits I always liked braising secondary cuts like beef cheeks or brisket. Stick it in the oven and five hours later you will be in for a treat. One pot wonders are always fuss-free and if done well tastes amazing.
What’s one of the craziest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
One of the craziest episodes I’ve experienced was when I came into work at 6am one day. Everything was ready for a VVIP business lunch with the former Australian Premier, then opposition leader Tony Abbot. This was a big account and while running through all the emails on the hotels intranet I came across a last minute request for another 50 pax for lunch. The issue was that duck confit was on the menu. Knowing full well it takes a good 4-5 hours to confit the legs, I made a dash for it and proceeded to cook the legs. As we were platting up the first 150 main courses I was frencing the tips of the legs just in time for the last 50 plates. At the end you question why do we put ourselves through this? But where is the fun if there is no drama?
A day in the life of a restaurateur/chef is…
On a good day I would normally focus and plan things I want to do but like most days something will come up, either something breaks or stops working and the focus will be on how to resolve the issue before the customers walk in.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about Interlude?
Its important for our guests to know that we emphasise using local produce before considering foreign imports. I think its almost counterproductive to ignore some of the splendid produce we have on offer right here at our doorstep. I truly believe that we need use local.