July 15, 2024
  • Menu
  • Menu

Kevin Sinclair–Holiday Inn Suva’s Chef Extraordinaire

Editor’s note: Kevin Sinclair, the Executive Sous Chef of the Holiday Inn Suva, is a rising star in Fiji’s growing culinary constellation. He’s been with the property for the last five years. Before joining IHG, which manages the Holiday Inn Suva, the Grand Pacific Hotel, and the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa (all owned by FNPF), he worked at Tropica Island Resort on Malolo, PacificResort Aitutaki (in the Cook Islands) and the popular Blue Lagoon Cruises (in Fiji). I interviewed him recently in Suva at the Holiday Inn.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background.

A:  My family hails from Labasa and I was raised in Lautoka. I was raised by my grandparents, and I developed the love for food at an early age. I’m married to Blanche Sinclair, and I have three daughters and a baby on the way.

Q: What inspired your culinary career?

A:  My late Grandfather always loved food and would always put out a large spread for our family. My grandmother was a terrific baker, she would bake a variety of cakes and pies that we all enjoyed. My mother was also a talented cook. There are some dishes she made where the flavors still resonate to this day. I attained my culinary education with FNU (Fiji National University) in Nadi and then started my career with Blue Lagoon Cruises.

Baking was important in the Sinclair household and an inspiration for his culinary career. This vegetarian cake (“Death by Chocolate”) is a Holiday Inn favorite. (Courtesy Holiday Inn)

Q: Who was your biggest “professional” culinary influence?

A: Over the years I have met many people who have guided my career, but a few made a significant impact on me. My first mentor was my Grandfather Jack Sinclair. He taught me the love for food and the importance it played in keeping our family together. I then met an Executive Chef by the name of Betty Newton who guided me and taught me the importance of doing things correctly. Chef, Vataiki Koro, who influenced how I perceived dishes was an amazing cook and a great human being. He also taught me how to treat my team. He really cared for those who worked hard for him. I was also influenced by a General Manager by the name of Leba Pareti. She not only pushed me to improve my work ethic, but she was, and still is, a person I consider my second mum. She was extremely organized and would go to lengths unknown to get the job done. A truly remarkable lady.

Chef Kevin interned with European chefs. He’s true to their old school desserts such as chocolate mousse. (courtesy Holiday Inn)

Q: What about the influence of European cuisine? Who were your mentors?

A: I had the pleasure of working with two French Chefs. Jean- Pierre Yves Boulot, Executive Chef of Pacific Resort Aitutaki, was amazing. It blew my mind how refined his food was. I wanted to plate and create dishes like him. He had a simple elegance and was a great human being. After I left the Cook Islands I met Executive Chef Philippe Gerand. He was highly intelligent and created very flavorful food unique to his homeland, France. He also highlighted fusion in his creations. Our General Manager at the Holiday Inn, Mr. Mohammed Feroz, has such a keen eye for details and is a great role model. His ability to maintain lofty standards and hotel operations is quite inspiring.

There’s a traditional wood fired pizza oven at the back of the property called BATI NI WAI. Kevin makes certain guests enjoy the real deal. (courtesy Holiday Inn)

Q: How did the culinary traditions of Fiji’s multicultural society impact your cooking?

A: We grew up eating comfort food of many cultures. These included meals such as curries, chicken chop suey and stews. These were popular with every household regardless of the origin of ethnicity. People in Fiji expect to have these dishes when celebrating special days together with friends and family.

Q: Are there dishes you serve at the Holiday Inn that are reminiscent of those days?

A: Yes, we have an all-day menu which consists of a wide range of curries, stir fries and stews that are commonly consumed daily.

Q: You mentioned that your Pesto crusted Mahimahi is a special dish. Why is that?

A: It is a special plate because it uses all local ingredients. We use French techniques to put the meal together. It is all about blending a bit of both worlds to create a very versatile dish.

Pesto crusted Mahimahi is a specialty of the chef. With fresh basil and fresh fish, the flavors are radiant and all ingredients are locally sourced. (courtesy Holiday Inn)

Q: Can you pick three of your favorite dishes on the menu? 

A: The top three dishes for me would be our Braised beef Cheek in a red wine sauce, Chicken & mushroom risotto and our BBQ platter, which can be served as a shared plate or enjoyed alone.

Q: You mentioned that you like to “keep it local” when it comes to cuisine. What dishes have “Fijian flavors” or a local twist?

A: We offer dishes like a chili prawn pasta with coconut cream and Kokoda which is the “Fijian ceviche”. We also make gnocchi out of taro. Thus, a lot of our food is influenced by local ingredients. We do the same with our cakes and pastries as well. We currently have a list of cakes with local flavorings. These include our caramel and ginger cake and papaya mousse cake. We use local ingredients such as pineapple and coconut.

Chef Kevin is big on helathy options such as locally sourced fruit juices with lime, honey, turmeric and ginger. (Courtesy Holiday Inn)

Q: How does “farm to table” figure into the equation at Holiday Inn? What kinds of locally sourced produce or meat/fish/poultry do you serve?

A: Currently we do use up to 85 percent of locally sourced products on the menu. The IHG “Journey to tomorrow” program requires our hotel to find sustainable organic produce. In Fiji we are lucky that we do have great options to choose from regarding meat /poultry and seafood choices. We also promote seasonal fruits and vegetables whenever possible.

Q: What kinds of challenges does farm to table present?

A: I think the biggest challenge we face is during the rainy months when there’s often flooding in areas such as the Sigatoka Valley. The demand is there but the supply often cannot meet that demand and so the prices for the items can become unreasonable. We try to buy locally, but sometimes with shortages of supply, it’s cheaper and more convenient to use imported ingredients.

Chef Kevin Sinclair (Rob Kay photo)

Q: Do you mentor or train upcoming chefs?

A:  We definitely mentor people. A lot of our young, up and coming chefs, are working in their very first kitchen when they come to work with us. We train and groom them to our standards. We provide them with a lot of programs to develop them into the best versions of themselves. We are very accommodating for anyone who wishes to advance their education and have support mechanisms in place to back our colleagues.

Rob Kay

Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award winner Rob Kay wrote the original Lonely Planet Fiji Travel Guide, and is Founder of Fijiguide.com.

View stories
Skip to toolbar