To experience Mario’s Perera culinary expertise and influence, come and dine with us at The Dorchester.
Meet executive chef Mario Perera
October 11, 2021
When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
Ever since I was a child I dreamt of working as a chef at The Dorchester. I was inspired by my parents’ love of cooking and how they cooked from their hearts. After seeing an advertisement in a catering magazine stating how The Dorchester was ‘the place to be and work’, I told my mum that this was where I wanted to be a chef. She encouraged me by saying that if I worked hard enough anything would be possible. Now she’s so proud because she understands how much this means to me.
Tell us about your time The Dorchester
I moved from Sri Lanka in 1995 when I became commis chef at The Dorchester. I was later promoted to executive sous chef and recently I became executive chef, overseeing six kitchens and 100 chefs. I believe I have the greatest team and the best kitchen in London, so I really am living the dream. Over the years the hotel has become like a second home and I’ve learnt so much. Preparing food for people is one of the most precious things you can do. We also work really closely with the finest local suppliers, who assist us in demonstrating our commitment to quality, seasonality and sustainability.
What’s your signature dish?
I created our popular Norfolk Black chicken and chestnut mushroom pie, served with heritage carrots, truffle mash and New Forest mushrooms. It’s a wonderful example of showcasing outstanding British produce and it’s so satisfying when our guests tell us how much they enjoy it. We use the same chicken for our famous afternoon tea sandwiches because the flavour is second to none.
What’s your favourite food memory?
When I served HM Queen Elizabeth II for the first time and I cooked a sole dish for her. It was my privilege to personally meet and cook for her at several state banquets at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and here at The Dorchester.
What do you like to cook at home?
I love a good slow-cooked pot roast. It’s a simple and easy way to cook and gives the best flavours. Something like this is also a great sharing dish that everyone can enjoy together. My favourite is free-range chicken served alongside heritage roasted vegetables with Stilton and pickled walnuts. When friends come over they always say it smells amazing and there’s a real sense of expectation.
Can you suggest some easy yet impressive dishes?
Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact with good quality ingredients the simplest dishes are often the best. For example, a good piece of steak just needs a little salt and pepper before cooking to your liking to taste delicious. Likewise, an easy but impressive banoffee pie is always popular. The ingredients are really easy to buy and if you have ripe bananas it’s guaranteed to taste amazing.
What’s your favourite piece of kitchen equipment?
A simple tasting spoon. I’m always reminding my chefs of the importance of tasting as you go to ensure a good balance of flavours and to develop an eye to know when something is ready. Whether you’re in a professional kitchen or at home, this is the way to constantly improve your culinary skills.
What’s your desert island dish?
I have a real love of sushi, its freshness and simplicity are the perfect thing after a day spent tasting so many different dishes. I’m delighted that my daughter is a big fan of sushi too, as I’m teaching her to cook and appreciate a variety of different flavours.
What are you favourite dishes around the world?
Having grown up in Sri Lanka, I still love their local dishes. The flavours are so vibrant and there’s a fondness for coconut milk. My must-have dish whenever I visit is still my mum’s fish curry. Visiting Bangkok as a child had a big impression on me too. I remember all the sights, sounds, smells and flavours of the street food. Many of these people had so little yet cooked with such passion. I also have great memories of travelling to Mexico and tasting their wonderfully healthy and colourful dishes, it’s a country that really celebrates their local ingredients.
What do you love most about London?
I’m a huge fan of the London food scene and the variety that can be found here. One of my favourite places is Borough Market. It’s wonderful to be able to meet the producers, hear their fascinating stories and enjoy a few samples along the way.
What’s the one dessert you think everyone should master?
Bread and butter pudding. It has a long history at The Dorchester and remains a firm favourite. The Dorchester’s elevated version is made with panettone and a mix of cream and milk for extra indulgence. The joy of the classic recipe is that it uses simple ingredients you already have at home, making it a great last-minute dessert idea.
Tell us about your passion for Asian cuisine
I love cooking Asian-style food. As well as taking inspiration from Sri Lanka, I’m really inspired by Indian and Southeast Asian dishes. We’re currently working with Refine Events to create bespoke, show-stopping Asian events here at The Dorchester. I particularly like using our exclusive Chef’s Table for these occasions, where I can guide diners through the creative menus and bring the whole experience to life. These events are a real joy to take part in.
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