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Indulgent Dining at its Finest – Head Chef of Luna Vish Sumputh Interview

It’s a mild and sunny day as I head to Dublin city centre restaurant Luna to meet the venue’s new head chef Vish Sumputh. As I make my way into the dining room the bright sunshine is left behind me, and I descend into a plush room, with soft lighting and slick leather seats.

Luna has an Italian/New York restaurant vibe. The seats are big and comfy and the entire space feels well connected, with the open kitchen on display and the bar overlooking the dining space.

I meet Vish, a tall man dressed head to toe in crisp chef whites. Instantly you can tell this is someone who is super passionate about food. The way he talks about food is almost like he is talking caringly about a friend, the level of respect he has for food is evident.

Originally from Mauritius, where he learned to cook from his aunt, Vish came to Dublin when he was 19 to study business management. He completed the first year of his studies but soon realised it wasn’t relevant to his interests and he then enrolled in IT Tallaght to study Culinary Arts for three years.

“I have a culinary arts degree back home in Mauritius where I was working in a fine dining establishment in a five-star resort.” Over the years Vish has worked with some big names like Alain Ducasse. “I planned to go to Switzerland to continue my studies but I fell in love with Dublin. I like the culture here so I stayed here.”

“I’ve been in Dublin for almost 14 years, so I’ve worked everywhere. I started in The Boxty House, and I loved the traditional Irish cooking there. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about different food culture. From there I went to F.X. Buckley, The Butchers Grill, Cliff Town House when Richard Corrigan was there, and I spent 6 years in Chapter One as sous chef, and then I was offered a job as the head chef here in Luna“.

While he has racked up some incredible experience he tells me “this is my first official head chef job”, and he seems to take this pressure in his stride. Vish tells me that they change the menu according to the seasons and works closely with his suppliers to achieve this. “I have very good relationships with my suppliers, I talk to them almost every day. They’ll ring me at 2.00am in the morning to tell me what fish has landed.

Vish is methodical in his work and regularly talks with his suppliers discussing “what’s in season, what’s coming in or what’s going to last. I gather all the information and we start designing the menu from there”.

“I don’t rush using any product, I’ll wait for a couple of weeks after getting certain things. For example, we got blood oranges last week but we’re just starting to use them tomorrow. The dessert that they’re used in is our best seller.” Vish is talking about Luna’s famous Bomboloni. An Italian doughnut made with homemade brioche crumb and filled with white chocolate ganache and orange.

When he first came to Luna he fell in love with the pasta dishes, so much so there are two that he has kept; Bucatini Cacio e Pepe and Spaghetti al Tartufo. “Although they have stayed, I’ve modernised the dishes.” Committed to serving only the freshest produce he tells me they make fresh pasta every morning and anything that’s leftover they use for staff dinners. So when you dine at Luna you can be assured everything that you eat will be incredibly fresh.

“We’ve tweaked the Spaghetti al Tartufo a bit. Now we’re using truffle pecorino cheese instead of just plain pecorino. I won’t get rid of those two dishes, but every time we change the menu we’ll update and improve them. You can’t go wrong with the classics.”

In a sea of restaurants it can often be hard to stand out, and I wonder what makes Luna unique? Vish thinks it’s the style of cooking, and also the place itself. “The dining room is absolutely fabulous and it reflects the food we cook. When we design the menu we think about the whole experience; where the customer is sitting, the layout of the restaurant, the kitchen. We don’t overcomplicate things here”

It’s beautiful and elegant food, everything here is indulgent. I am very proud of the style of cooking at Luna”

Vish tells me his favourite part of the job is coming into the restaurant first thing in the morning. An act he describes as “a pleasure”, and he says he looks forward to coming to work each day. It’s the calm before the storm, as the chefs get stuck into preparations before hungry diners fill the restaurant. “You open the door and there’s nobody there and that feeling is different. You feel full of energy, you feel the atmosphere and you’re ready to start working. It gives me such a positive feeling.”

Our conversation turns to Irish food in general, and where Vish thinks it is heading. He says “things are looking very positive, and very bright. I think over the past few years Irish people have become more aware of new trends. They are more open to new ideas and are trying different foods.” Following in the footsteps of Ireland’s three new Michelin star restaurants in Cork, Vish believes there will be a lot more Michelin star restaurants in the next few years.

Commenting on diners willingness to try new foods he says “gives us chefs a chance to be more creative, we’re not afraid to put new things on the plate, because we know diners will try it. We have more freedom now.”

When Vish isn’t cooking up a storm in Luna’s kitchen he tells me his favourite place to visit is The Greenhouse. This Michelin star restaurant has Mickael Viljanen running its kitchen, who’s style Vish describes as “elegant”.

Admittedly he says he “doesn’t go out to eat too often, so when I do I’ll go all out and head to The Greenhouse. Or I like to go to Etto, or for a great steak I’ll go to The Butchers Grill. I used to work there so I know the produce and I know it’ll be good.”

Does this seasoned professional have advice to any young chefs starting out in the industry? “If they really want to do it, they have to be dedicated.” Vish says having goals in mind are important, and that “you need to look to the future, and have a real love for food. Be passionate about what you’re doing and understand your produce.”

“See the kitchen as an experience of life and don’t look at it as just a job. Enjoy every single moment of it, even through the good times and bad times.”

Looking to the future Vish says he wants to achieve a lot, “I want to see this place progress more than it already has.” Three years ago, Luna won the title of “Best Restaurant in Ireland”, but Vish says he wants even bigger than that. “My first six months here were spent building the foundations for the restaurant. The general manager Declan and I work very closely together, and we have the same ambitions. In fact, all the staff work together, we all want to progress and achieve big things.”

Vish’s passion and drive are plain to see when he talks about what the future holds for Luna. “We want to give people the best food and best experience,” Vish shares with me the best advice he’s ever been given, which came from his old boss in Chapter One, none other than Ross Lewis.

Ross told him “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon”. Vish believes you should take every moment, both good and bad as an experience. “If you can understand that idea, there’s only one winner, and that’s you.”

INTERVIEW BY SINÉAD SMYTH
Beara Gin

Sinéad is a Culinary Arts graduate from DIT. She is a passionate cook with a love of fine dining and modern Irish cuisine. A gin lover, Sinéad loves seeking out cosy new pubs and sampling a variety of craft beers.

If she’s not dining out, Sinéad loves travelling the world exploring new cultures and cuisines. Working with TheTaste allows Sinéad to fully immerse herself in the Irish food industry.

Sinead Smyth Sinead Smyth

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