27 February 2020

ACV26: Starting A Restaurant, Inventing Dishes, Appreciating Food And More (Rishi Naleendra, Michelin-starred Chef, Part 2)

Chef RIshi’s impressive culinary career includes stints as Chef de Partie at the world-renowned Tetsuya’s in Sydney, where he developed a fastidious attention to detail, and Pastry Chef at the award-winning Yellow by Brent Savage, whom Chef Rishi values as a mentor whose guidance was instrumental in helping him hone his skills.

Chef Rishi’s first restaurant, Cheek by Jowl, was awarded a Michelin star in 2018. He closed it in February 2019 to make way for Cheek Bistro, which now takes up the same space and offers modern Australian fare that marries the fresh, eclectic flavours of the land Down Under with the comforting, hearty notes of bistro cooking. Parallel to the operation of Cheek Bistro, Chef Rishi has since opened a new restaurant, Cloudstreet. Founded in partnership with Gareth Burnett, this establishment showcases the innovation of his kitchen and has received numerous accolades. The menu marries disparate cultures and influences in an exuberant expression while championing ingredient-driven cuisine and seasonality.

In April of this year, Chef Rishi is set to open Kotuwa, a traditional Sri Lankan restaurant in Singapore.

Chef Rishi Naleendra talks about starting his own restaurant and building a team around him who shares the same culture of excellence. We chat about his creative process, as well as how one should simply enjoy any meal, be it fine dining or plain burger.


  1. Build a team united by a shared vision – Rishi’s success with Cheek by Jowl was driven by the sheer force of his team’s vision. They were all laser focussed on getting a Michelin star, and they did not stop until it happened. It is this vision and attitude that now guides all of Rishi’s hiring choices. People concerned with politics will necessarily muddy the shared intention.
  2.  Don’t rush to reach your peak – Generally we have a good 40-50 years of our working lives. Rushing to achieve success in one’s 20’s is a surefire way to burnout. Rishi notes that many young chefs who run kitchens at 25 are not seen in their 30’s.
  3.  The key to enjoying food is to stop thinking – In the age of social media and online reviews, everyone is a foodie. Rishi urges patrons to stop assuming they know all there is to know about food, and trust the chef to put together a good dish. He also reminds us that running a restaurant is a job, and sometimes people have a bad day at work. An isolated mistake is no excuse to leave a vindictive review, or never go to a restaurant again. The key indicator of quality is what a restaurant will do after their mistake is pointed out.

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