Alumni Feature | Mel Athulathmudali | Class of 2016

April 3, 2020

I grew up in Dundas, ON and spent a great part of my childhood being taught to cook by my parents. They encouraged my culinary exploration, which continued into my adult life when I became a flight attendant and was given the opportunity to travel and eat all over the world. Since graduating, I have been a teacher in a Montessori school, helping kids in grades 7-9 find their culinary voice, as well as running my own catering company. Teaching the kids has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.












What is your favourite restaurant?

I can’t say there is one overriding favourite, but since I travel so much for work, I love exploring a new city and finding great hidden gems. My current favourites are Point Prim Chowder House on PEI and Verso Sera in Rome.

What is your favourite cookbook?

I have a friend who is a food historian and is helping me see new aspects of Canadian Food that I was previously unaware of. I am currently still reading ‘True North’, ‘Anita Stewart’s Canada’ and ‘Flavours of PEI’. I have focused on other countries’ food for so long that I forgot how great our own cuisine can be.

What is your guilty pleasure food?

Roast Beef Sandwiches from Tally HO in Hamilton. Late night junk food from my high school days.

What food did you think was over-rated until you tried it?

Sea Urchin. Hands down. I had always thought of it as something known more for reputation than flavour. Until I tasted it. Now I order it whenever it’s on the menu.

Favourite knife or kitchen tool?

I have a set of metal cake testers/fish testers that I use constantly. This may be a TMI moment, but they were given to me by a friend after she had an operation on her feet. The pins were used to hold her toes straight. They’ve been sanitized obviously, but every time i see them or use them, I think of my friend.

What restaurant dish seemed the most intimidating but is actually really easy to make?

It’s not one dish in particular, but I used to be so in awe of pastry chefs, and still am; however, I am getting over my own reticence to explore pastry and sweet cooking. It’s not nearly as tear inducing now as it was for me at Chefs School!

Favourite ingredient you can’t get enough of or are experimenting with right now?

Right now I am exploring the addition of middle and far eastern spices in traditional Canadian cooking. I love adding things to dishes so that people will get an unexpected surprise when they taste them. For instance a Tourtiere spiced with something like sumac and zaatar or a Pouding Chomeur with cardamom-clove syrup and ginger ice cream.

Are there any recipes from SCS you still use?

I am constantly referencing stuff from my school cookbooks. I just used the Creme brûlée recipe this week for a casting job I had.

What is your best SCS memory?

I will always have great memories of my time at the Chefs School, but what really stands out is the bond I had with my fellow students. We shared something special and were such a huge part of each others’ lives for that time. I am constantly being reminded of random things from School when I am in the kitchen or teaching. I also remember the support and guidance of the instructors at times when I thought I couldn’t go another day. I will always be grateful to the School for showing me that I could in fact weather the storm and come out the other side capable of doing anything I wanted to.

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