Chef Devan Rajkumar is quickly becoming one of the hottest names in the Toronto culinary scene. Driven by a deep passion for all things food related, Chef Devan spends his days at the helm of his downtown Toronto restaurant, engaging audiences as a guest chef on CITYLINE, spurring culinary battles with up-and-coming local talent, and honing his craft as a culinary and food expert.
We caught up with the exuberant chef to learn more about the man behind the apron.
Tell us what food means to you?
My oldest memory of food is sitting on the floor of my grandma’s apartment as a small child helping her to grind coconuts for making a classic traditional Indo-Guy- anese dish which is called ‘coconut choka’ — a spicy and flavourful grated coconut condiment. This was my introduction to cooking and sparked my love of food. The flavourful profile and delight of this dish transported me to another planet; and, since then, I was catapulted on my quest
to discover and recreate exciting culinary experiences for others from all the various cultures of the world. Food has a way of connecting people, unlike anything else. Similar to music, you can connect and bond with someone from another culture without even knowing their language or customs. Food is the common denominator which connects our global human family. It is the essence of life. I am passionate about food to the core of my being and strive each day to learn a new recipe or improve on my skills.
Have you been able to infuse a little bit of your personality into your Toronto restaurant, Loch & Quay? Do the menu & ambiance reflect who you are as a chef?
Without a doubt the menu at Loch & Quay reflects my personality and unbounded passion to leave a lasting and flavourful impression with every guest. I have been very fortunate to travel to many countries to work and learn indigenous food cultures from authentic local chefs and families. In fact, I took a 6 month sabbatical in 2016, for a world food tour where I was able to eat my way through India, Dubai and several countries in Europe plus a 2 weeks intensive training at a Cerveceria in Peru. My menu here at Loch & Quay is world inspired, as I am.
How do you run your kitchen? Do you strike fear like Gordon Ramsay, or do you prefer a cooler, calmer approach?
I have worked under chefs who would yell, scream and thrown plates at walls. However, this is certainly not my style, approach and innate personality. I prefer to be a mentor and teacher to all the people in our kitchen. I am fortunate to be surrounded by talented cooks and chefs. Indeed! things can get very heated in the kitchen, at times, but remaining calm and collected not only sets a better environment for our staff, but the customers as well. Besides, I see food as sacred and should be treated with the respect and positive energy to enhance the dining experience.
There are a lot of talented chefs out there, is there one, in particular, that has really influenced you? Do you have a culinary muse?
Anthony Bourdain was a very big inspiration for me. He had a natural ability to assimilate in any setting and unpretentiously become one with the local people who he seamlessly connected with. Undoubtedly, he was a great and fabulous mentor for me. I am saddened by his untimely passing and would keep the dream alive by what I have learned from him.
What is your ultimate aspiration? Would you love to become a household name like Bobby Flay or Jamie Oliver?
Surely, I would like to make a significant impact on the younger generation to be more aware and respectful of the importance of food in our societies and also to help them to eat healthy. I have been touring elementary schools and some churches, to tutor the kids, in this regard.