Peter Kuruvita’s Toast to the coast
Many of us dream of making the ‘sea change’. Peter Kuruvita has, to Noosa, and he has discovered a life enriched in so many ways that he has made a TV show about it.
Three years ago, chef and restaurateur Peter Kuruvita seemingly had some good things going on. His Flying Fish restaurants in Sydney and Fiji were doing well and he had a burgeoning TV presenting career. But deep down he wasn’t really in a happy place. An argument with a surly taxi driver in bustling Sydney traffic proved to be the final straw. So when he got the opportunity to open up a restaurant as part of the Sheraton Hotel (now the Sofitel) in Noosa, he gladly accepted. Once he’d spent some time on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, he decided to relocate his entire family. He’s never been happier.
“The original idea was just to come up here to get away from the madness,” Peter tells me when we sit down for a cup of perfectly brewed Dilmah tea at his Noosa Beach House restaurant. “I used to travel up here and I thought, what a beautiful, peaceful place this is. It would be a nice place to start our second life, our next stage of living. And I have to say Noosa has been perfect.”
Becoming a local
His Noosa Beach House restaurant has been a roaring success. Perched perfectly just one block back from the beach on Hastings Street, the main strip of Noosa Heads, the venue has become a popular destination for travellers as well as a cool hangout for locals. The café/bar area facing the street is popular for breakfast and lunch and then hums as a bar from the early evening on, while the restaurant offers fine dining, highlighting Peter’s signature seafood menu.
“There were a lot of plans in opening here,” explains Peter. “Number one was respect to the locals. It is a very local based place. Even though it is a great holiday destination, I tried to focus on the locals to find out what they wanted and what was missing.
“Seafood is what I am known for with a twist of Sri Lankan. So we’ve stuck to that, but the main thing is using local ingredients. And local ingredients here are abundant. I could list what doesn’t come from here easier than what does.”
A place that astounds
It is the vast array of produce, and the wonderfully earnest people behind them, that has really endeared Peter to his new coastal surrounds.
“This has really been a journey of discovery,” he says. “Sure, there is the beach and the surf and holiday destination that all my restaurants seem to gravitate towards. But the discovery of ingredients was just amazing because in many other places you have beauty but you struggle for the ingredients. Here, it is so varied.
“We have stunning seafood from here, such as spanner crabs, Moreton Bay bugs, Mooloolaba prawns – arguably the best king prawns in the world and a sustainable product, and, of course, Hervey Bay scallops, legendary for their perfect white flesh.
“Then you come onto the land and you have macadamia nuts from Gympie, Red Claw, another incredible ingredient, custard apple, avocado – you name it, it is here, and it’s plentiful.”
The aquacultural and agricultural riches of the region are so amazing that Peter was compelled to make a TV series about them. Peter Kuruvita’s Coastal Kitchen on SBS takes viewers on a culinary journey revealing the produce around Noosa and the Sunshine Coast hinterland and introducing the colourful producers behind them. Characters such as a former jazz trumpeter who now makes some of the best mozarella and haloumi Peter has tasted, Veronica who runs Witjuti Grub Bushfood Nursery, nurturing bush tucker plants in her backyard, and Lauren, who breeds camels for their nutritious, lactose-free milk. “Camel milk makes the best cappuccino ever because the froth is ‘that’ high,” says Peter, indicating a measurement of three inches over a cup.
His restaurant and the TV show are just two of the many things Peter has given to Noosa. But I want to know what has Noosa given him? “Calm. I am seriously a lot more chilled,” he says, smiling. “We only have two sets of traffic lights and generally if they do turn red, then green and back to red and someone in front doesn’t go, no one beeps, you just go, ‘whatever’. “Noosa has brought an intense calmness to me and my family, and a heightened awareness of health and fitness... and I like the taxi drivers better here, too.”
Peter Kuruvita’s Coastal Kitchen is on Thursday nights at 8.30pm on SBS TV from November 10.
Watch our interview with Peter talking about his move to Noosa and his new show