18 September 2023

Five Minutes with Jude Fernando, Banana Leaf Restaurant

| Claire Sams
Jude Fernando in a black zip-up hoodie standing in front of brightly coloured masks

After graduating in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jude Fernando moved to Canberra to try his hand at hospitality. Photo: Claire Sams.

Who are you?

I’m Jude Fernando, the manager at Banana Leaf Restaurant.

What are the three key things that someone should know about you?

I’m big on customer service, so I pride myself on going beyond what the customer wants. I think people deserve a good service for the price that they pay; that is something that I really look in myself to give to my customers.

I’m a fun, outgoing person; I don’t see myself as a very serious person.

What does your typical day look like?

It’s pretty much the same day-to-day. I usually get to work by around 11:30 to 11:45 am to help set up lunch, which goes from 12 pm until 2 pm. Dinner is then from 5 pm to 9 pm.

Weekends do tend to get a bit busier. When there is a show [at Canberra Theatre Centre], especially if it is a premiere, it can get extra busy. That’s when we need to be a bit more organised because everyone is walking in at the same time and walking out at the same time. When it’s that busy, you need to do a bit more preparation.

What are the top three items that really show what your venue can do?

We’re a fusion restaurant, so you get some traditional dishes and some Australian items mixed with Sri Lankan spices for the end product.

The most popular and authentic Sri Lankan dish we have is the Village Set, also known as the gamme kaema in Sri Lankan. It has 12 different elements, if you count the chilli as well. You can choose between the string hoppers or rice, along with a chicken, beef or fish curry with an assortment of veggies.

We also have more fusion-style items, like our duck. Duck is not very Sri Lankan, but we make it Sri Lankan with the spices that we use. The lamb backstrap is also quite popular.

A photo of the Village Set (or the gamme kaema) menu item

Banana Leaf Restaurant combines Australian and Sri Lankan flavours for a fusion between the two cuisines, but the Village Set is one of the traditional items on the menu. Photo: Claire Sams.

How did you get your current job?

I did my masters in Melbourne in tourism and graduated in August 2020, and then I moved around for a couple of months. I couldn’t see myself working in a hotel or motel, but I did see myself in hospitality. I moved to Canberra because I had family here and joined Banana Leaf immediately.

Hospitality has just grown on me, and I’ve liked the lively atmosphere of hospitality.

What is Canberra’s best-kept food secret?

I think it is that diversity is growing. Ever since I came here, many new chains and new restaurants have opened up. Even though Canberra’s a small city, there’s a lot to explore.

What is your favourite or must-use ingredient when cooking at home?

For me, it’s curry powder and chilli. I’ve grown up eating them and, for me, to have a bit of spice in your food is imperative. It’s just normal. I also use other spices as well – cinnamon, cardamon and all of those items – in most of my dishes.

What are your favourite foods?

It would be Sri Lankan, Indian or Mexican.

I love Mexican, especially a good burrito now and then. I also do have a bit of family background from India, as well. I do like my biryanis and South Indian dosas and stuff like that. But being Sri Lankan, I also like my wok-tossed fried rice.

A brightly coloured drink on a bar

The Sri Lankan falooda is one of the mocktail drinks on the menu at Banana Leaf Restaurant – and the chilled drink is perfect as the weather warms. Photo: Claire Sams.

What TV show or movie are you watching right now?

I’ve been watching The Voice. I don’t really get to see a lot of it because I’m at work most of the time. I do sing a bit myself, so it’s something I can relate to, though I’d never go on the show. I just sing for fun.

Where do you dine out for special occasions?

I don’t really have a particular place. I do like my alcohol and I do like fine dining, so any place that pairs food and alcohol together would be a place that I would think of going. I also like places that are a bit more innovative and not traditional. Places like Korean barbecue definitely strike me as somewhere I could go and dine in.

Who do you admire in the Canberra food scene?

Such and Such Restaurant [in Civic] has just started, and I think they’re doing really well. There’s an Asian fusion place down on City Walk [in Civic] called Akiba, and they have a lot of volume coming in while having good food. I think it’s hard to satisfy everyone when you have a volume, but they do it really well.

An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?

A hazelnut latte. I wake up every morning, and I don’t have to think about it. The size would change sometimes. I probably switch to a Sri Lankan falooda for summer, which is a rose syrup drink with ice cream, jellies and milk.

Banana Leaf is located at 2 Akuna Street, Civic, and is open for lunch from 12 pm to 2 pm, Monday to Friday, and for dinner from 5 pm to 9 pm from Monday to Sunday.

Original Article published by Claire Sams on Riotact.

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