23 May 2024

2 minute read

Meet The Gabbinbar Culinary Team

Combining decades of experience and ever-evolving culinary skills, our chef team, led by Jennifer Blashak and Cheminda Prasanna Morathotage Seneviratne, create menus that not only champion the Darling Downs finest ingredients, but are a testament to their dedication and craftsmanship.

Chef forages for food

Chef Blashak has worked and led culinary teams worldwide in resorts and hotels in England, France and Australia. Drawing on her intuitive understanding of ingredients and flavour combinations, she has forged a culinary style unique to Gabbinbar that celebrates the elegance of fresh flavours, beautiful produce and elevated technique.⁠⁠

Where do you find your inspiration?⁠

I draw my inspiration for new dishes from the diverse cuisines and cultures I've experienced during my travels abroad.

I was first drawn into a career in the culinary arts by chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Oliver. While I have always had a love of cooking and my Italian and Polish background meant I appreciated the tradition of beautiful handmade food as the foundation of mealtime, it was Jamie’s portrayal of passion and personality through food and Anthony’s raw and emotive exploration of different cultures that sparked joy in me.

When abroad, exploring the markets and local food vendors provides insight into the flavours and ingredients that are a true representation of the culture and an enjoyable way to immerse myself in culinary traditions. While in Slovenia I encountered bear salami. A product that was a very foreign concept to me but to the locals was just a part of their everyday diet. It’s this philosophy of utilising what you have in your local area that inspires me to look to the fresh, local produce that our rich Darling Down region provides. 

While I mostly enjoy going off the beaten track, I do enjoy fine dining at the best local restaurants (found through local advice and word of mouth) where I use the experience not only as an indulgence but as a source of inspiration for honing my technique and flavour combinations. 

What has been your career highlight so far?⁠

My career highlight so far has been stepping into the Head Chef role at Gabbinbar, although my early career was full of memorable moments and accomplishments.

My travels started after I finished my apprenticeship, I decided to leave Australia and explore the world. I chose England as a starting point as it is part of the Commonwealth and English-speaking, making it easier to acquire a visa and find work, while having Europe on my doorstep was a big plus as I wanted to explore the Mediterranean, which is a huge source of inspiration for me. 

I had the opportunity to work at a beautiful five-star luxury hotel - Stoke Park - revered for its history, day spa and golf course. It has also had a few Hollywood moments as the backdrop for films like Bridgette Jones’s Diary and the James Bond franchise. 

It was the perfect way to start my career as it gave me experience and skills that have become invaluable to my roles today and led me to other career-defining moments in Fance, The Whitsundays and Falls Creek. ⁠⁠

What is your best advice for couples when choosing a menu for their wedding day?

When choosing the menu for their wedding day I recommend that couples take into consideration the season, their flavour preferences and their personalities. 

Our food celebrates the Daling Downs region's finest ingredients, so even if the laid-back style of our Garden Party menu is preferred, our couples and their guests will still experience a gastronomic journey of fresh produce, rich flavour and warm hospitality.

What is one indulgence that you make for yourself at home?⁠

Pasta! I am a massive pasta fan! The key to making a great pasta dish is to keep it simple; a bit of olive oil, some garlic, cracked pepper and parmesan cheese. Pure perfection. 

While pasta is my indulgence, if I have more time to create, I opt for Pierogi with fried onions, sour cream and dill. The handmade ritual-like process of making these traditional Polish dumplings brings me happy memories of family and home cooking.

quality fruits and vegetables make up the wedding menu at gabbinbar

Chaminda Prasanna Morathotage Seneviratne brings a wealth of experience to his role as Sous-Chef at Gabbinbar. Having held prestigious roles in leading 5-star hotels in Dubai and Qatar, Chaminda utilises a profound understanding of flavours and ingredients, that were cultivated from a young age, along with vast experience in the culinary industry, to create food with precision and passion. 

Where do you find your inspiration?⁠

I have always been curious about the culinary habits of other cultures; the ingredients and flavours that they use in their dishes and how they create them. 

Growing up in Sri Lanka cultivated within me a profound appreciation for flavours and the significance of harnessing locally sourced, fresh ingredients. This is a fundamental principle of my culinary philosophy, continually inspiring me to develop my craft. Observing my grandmother's meticulous preparation and cooking techniques, and absorbing her wisdom as I matured, has deeply influenced my approach; her culinary legacy resonates in every dish I create.

It is this curiosity of other cultures coupled with the profound influence of my grandmother's cooking that ignited my passion for pursuing a career in the culinary arts. The beauty of being a chef is that you can work anywhere in the world and it is this wanderlust and unwavering dedication to the craft that has paved the way to a fulfilling career in countries such as Dubai, Qatar and now Australia. 

What has been your career highlight so far?⁠

After completing my education at Ceylon Hotel School, followed by an apprenticeship at Hotel Columba, I embarked on a career in the hotel industry. Once I felt I had gleaned all I could from the rich culinary heritage of my homeland, I set my sights on exploring the diverse cuisines of the world.

In 2007, following a period of refining my skills in Dubai under the influence of chefs from France and beyond, I returned home and proudly participated in the Sri Lankan Chef Guild Culinary Competition. It was a defining moment when my plated appetiser entry earned me a gold medal. This achievement opened doors to positions in renowned 5-star establishments such as the One&Only Royal Mirage in Dubai, and the Four Seasons Hotel in Qatar, as well as roles at the esteemed Ramada and Renaissance Hotels.  

These fond memories and milestones have shaped the chef I am today, fueling my passion and commitment to excellence. As the sous-chef here at Gabbinbar, I am privileged to work with an exceptional team, imparting my expertise to those embarking on the next chapter of their lives at this prestigious venue.

What is your best advice for couples choosing a menu for their wedding day?⁠

I would recommend that couples take into consideration their flavour preferences as well as those of their guests, including any dietary requirements. 

The season and the choice of canapés and appetisers is an important consideration, particularly if you select a heartier option, such as the feasting menu, for your reception and decide to include additional entrées. It is best to balance these choices with lighter canapes, ensuring your guests' appetites are whetted, leaving ample room to enjoy the main course.

With so many different ways to enjoy the delicious seasonal food that represents the Darling Downs area, couples and their guests will be able to experience exceptional flavours and fresh produce no matter their choice. 

What is one indulgence that you make for yourself at home?⁠

I still find joy in preparing and indulging in Sri Lankan food. When time permits I like to replicate my grandmother's recipes and relish sharing them with my family and friends. A particular favourite is Fish Ambul Thiyal; a renowned dry fish curry beloved in Sri Lanka. Bursting with an aromatic blend of Gorka and traditional Sri Lankan spices, it boasts a distinctive sour and savoury flavour profile that has made it an iconic dish. Each family infuses their own unique twists and adaptations to this time-honored recipe and imparting this knowledge to my children is an experience I hold dear and consider truly special.

Combining decades of experience and ever-evolving culinary skills, our chef team, led by Jennifer Blashak and Cheminda Prasanna Morathotage Seneviratne, create menus that not only champion the Darling Downs finest ingredients but are a testimony to their dedication and craftsmanship.