In the heart of the Maldives, Executive Chef Hari Govindaraj harnesses the bounty of the surrounding waters for the culinary offering at the luxurious Gili Lankanfushi. He recently launched a plant-based menu based around produce from the resort’s organic garden, offering guests a plant to plate experience.

Supper sat down with Chef Hari, who originally hails from Tiruchirappalli in Southern India, to hear about his vision for the resort.



When did you first fall in love with cooking?
I fell in love with cooking during my childhood, as I would be cooking for my dad every night when he came home from a long day at work.

How would you describe your culinary style?
With two words: ‘simple’ and ‘fusion’. I tend to create my dishes using local ingredients as much as possible to reduce carbon footprint, and get creative by using what is available locally or within countries around the Indian Ocean. Spices and local ingredients are often my inspiration, along with produce from our organic garden. My culinary style also depends on who I’m cooking for, as I play around with spices and available ingredients to match their palette.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned during your career so far?
Always be creative and don’t limit yourself when creating dishes. Taste and feel every ingredient, and find the best combination. 

What’s your vision for the F&B offering at Gili Lankanfushi?
Simple. Local. Flavourful. The aim is to take guests on a journey with food, exploring the flavours of each ingredient in its truest form, with ingredients complementing each other. 

Gili Lankanfushi

You recently launched a new plant-based menu, why was that important?
There’s an increasing demand for plant-based dishes and people are becoming more aware of nature and more health conscious, so it’s important to have plant-based dining options available. Nothing is more depressing than to see people on plant-based diets limited when it comes to options for their meal: my aim is to break the stereotype of limited choices for these guests. 

What is a mark of success for you?
Immediate success for me would be to see non-plant-based diners becoming open to introducing more plant-based dishes into their diet, or for them to challenge themselves to be vegan for a day or for a period of time.

Many chefs in my city still do not understand the true value of being a chef. A mark of success here would be to create awareness and opportunities for young talents to grow and develop into their full potential as a chef. 

What’s your favourite dish at Gili Lankanfushi’s Kashiveli Restaurant? 
The Lobster Risotto is my absolute favourite because it contains flavours from the local Maldivian lobster, finished with goat’s cheese and cooked in lobster bisque. 

From the new plant-based menu, it would be the Eggplant Steak. This is a trump card for me – even people who don’t like to eat eggplant have fallen in love with it! It’s simple, easy to prepare and flavourful. Eggplant is my favourite. 

What do you want the dining experience at The Gili Garden to be?
The simple concept is ‘plant to plate’: the idea is to have guests walk around the garden with me to pick their favourite vegetables, herbs and spices, for that fresh customised dish that will be prepared in front of them in our organic garden. Most of all, it’s for them to be close to nature. 

What inspires you?
Different ingredients, different types of spices, and my organic garden are my main sources of inspiration. Also, I open my heart and listen to what nature and my inner voice tells me. Most importantly, my team: it’s a learning opportunity with my team on a daily basis. 

What is your approach to sustainability in your food?
My approach is to aim for zero waste. And if it’s not possible, to reduce food waste. This is through cooking with heart so that every dish is flavourful and leaves guests wanting more without them leaving scraps on the plates. Cooking the right amounts with the right ingredients is often the goal. 

What is your favourite dish, and who cooks it?
Simple home cooked food prepared by my Grandma and Mom: these dishes are what I grew up with in my childhood and left a deep impression on me. First is eggplant with black chickpea curry, cooked by my Grandma. Second is a coconut-based vegetable curry cooked by my Mom.