The casual visitor to Jetwing House may see the tall, informally dressed figure pass by,offering a warm smile and a soft spoken ‘ayubowan’ of welcome, and never guess that he is one of the most respected and pivotal figures that drive the tourism industry in Sri Lanka today. Hiran Cooray – Chairman of Jetwing and the only son of the company’s founder Herbert Cooray is living proof that a father’s vision can blossom and grow through his children: a dream fulfilled beyond expectations, and evolving still.
Carrying forward the legacy of his father and a 40 year history of continuous success is by no means a small responsibility, but to Hiran it is a mantle he carries with pride. His father’s guiding tenets of passion, honestly, integrity and tenacity are also his own. The calm, quiet presence of stability and strength being characteristics as much inherited as the determination and drive to achieve despite obstacles. And his achievements are numerous and much acclaimed. Educated at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, Hiran graduated from the University of North Carolina, USA and also followed a General Managers course at Cornell University.Taking his motherland to the world in more ways than one, Hiran has represented Sri Lanka on the Board of Directors of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) as well as being the past Chairman of the organization (2010/12). He was the Chairman of PATA Sri Lanka Chapter (2003/4) and President of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (2005/8); and was appointed an Alternate Member of the UNWTO – World Committee on Tourism Ethics for 2013-2017. A dynamic presence in promoting Sri Lanka tourism, Hiran is currently serving a second term as President of Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka 2014-2016 and sits on the Board of the Sri Lanka Tourist Development Authority. In addition to these responsibilities, he holds over 50 directorships in various hotels and related companies. A fierce advocator of youth development and education, Hiran is a much sought after speaker and panellist at tourism related forums both locally and overseas.
Much like his father, Hiran too has a clear vision for Jetwing: “…to be the most respected company. To be a company that is honest, deliver what it says to the employees as well as customers; a company that respects the environment, local communities - for me those are very, very important factors. Financial success is well and fine, but it is not the only factor. The 3Ps are equally important, people, planet & profits. You cannot isolate any of these. So we are a company focused on all three areas and we continue to grow that way…”
Hiran is a devout Catholic, he is also deeply family oriented: his wife Dharshini, and sons Dmitri, Hashan and Harin are his world. Keeping the family tradition, Hiran’s son, Dmitri too has joined Jetwing helping to continue the vision to the next generation.
The warmth of her wide smile and her utter unaffected nature distract all who meet Shiromal Cooray as to what she really is: a leading figure in the travel industry who is prominently placed amongst the 50 most powerful women of business in Sri Lanka, and the highly efficient and effective Managing Director of Jetwing Travels: the main in-bound tour operator arm of Jetwing.
As the daughter of Herbert Cooray – the founder and late Chairman of Jetwing, Shiromal was in essence an heir to his legacy – but ever independent of spirit, she had no wish to be a part of the family business and veered away from the leisure industry altogether to gain qualifications in finance. Subsequently, she joined the vibrant world of advertising – as an accountant at JWT, one of the leading ad agencies in Sri Lanka. Thriving in the fast paced, exciting atmosphere, she handled both accounts and media, rising quickly to become the Finance Director. When the opportunity arose to take up a similar post at JWT Hong Kong, she was glad to broaden her career prospects in the region, gaining valuable experience.
Leaving advertising after 7 years, she returned to Sri Lanka and to the Jetwing family to reinvent the travel division. The sector was increasing in scope in the early 90s and she entered the challenge of growing the business with her usual resoluteness and foresight;inspired and guided by her mentor and father. Over the years, Shiromal has steered the company’s progress to the success it enjoys today, but in her unassuming manner regards achievements as the norm, passing the credit on to the unstinted support of her team.
Deeply family oriented, Shiromal considers motherhood as possibly her greatest achievement. While travel is her line of business, it is also a pastime she enjoys – especially voyages of discovery to places that are off the everyday map. She loves to read – when time permits, and has a passionate interest in nature and the great outdoors.
An Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK), Shiromal also has an MBA from (the University of Colombo). A dynamic presence in the corporate arena, she is the former Vice-President of the Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka (TAASL) and the former President of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) - the foremost representative body for tour operators in Sri Lanka. She was also elected recently as the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID).
As a director on the Board of Jetwing, she lends her invaluable support and insight to the day to day operations of the group, but also extends her expertise to all Jetwing interests that fall under the wing of travel. Shiromal is also a director at the advertising agency Leo Burnett and the investment bank Capital Alliance and commodity broker Ceylon Tea Brokers.
From childhood Ruan loved sports. Representing his schools St. Benedict’s College, and Ananda College in Cricket, Athletics and Rugby he dreamed of becoming a star – preferably on the pitch. During his school days – and even afterwards, all Ruan wanted to do was play Cricket – that was his goal in life, possibly get a job as a sales rep or such to live by – and then play Cricket while doing so. His father, however, chose not to pander to such fickle ideas and encouraged young Ruan to take up his close friend Mr Cooray’s suggestion to help with the hotel he was planning to build in Negombo. With visions of lazy days on hot, sunny beaches, and sunbathing beauties foremost in mind, Ruan needed little persuasion. However, when he encountered the daunting tasks involved, he remained unfazed, quickly finding his talents and his natural flair for organisation and management from early on, diverting his considerable energy to pursue aims of a different kind. “…hard work never hurt anyone, it pays in the end…” Ruan considers himself to be living proof of that maxim.
Being a part of Jetwing from day one as it were, playing a very ‘hands on’ role, Ruan has been involved in every aspect of the company’s growth and its success so far. It was the close and inspiring relationship he shared with Mr. Herbert Cooray and the responsibility placed on him in an environment of trust and family spirit that strengthened Ruan’s commitment, keeping him loyal to the Company for over 40 years. Although many lucrative offers and ‘better prospects’ both locally and overseas came his way, Ruan was never tempted as he considered Jetwing to be his home, and his family. There was enough to motivate him in the diverse roles he played ensuring the growth of the company, with new properties to oversee, new challenges to meet and new achievements to secure.
Ruan’s vision for Jetwing is clear: to create a global impression as the ‘best’ brand in Sri Lanka and to retain that position at the top. He wants Jetwing to have a truly island-wide presence, with new destinations – especially in rural areas that offer a wholly different experience to the ever discerning travellers of today. He hopes to continue to set trends, and raise standards, create opportunities for those willing to grow with the Jetwing family – much the same as he did.
Even today, Negombo, remains his favourite location. “…it’s the place where I started my career, and I found my life partner from the area too – so, it holds a very special place in my heart.” A strong Catholic, he is deeply committed to his family, and enjoys times he spends with them. Inspired by Mr Cooray’s vision to nurture youth and provide them with better prospects,Ruan encouraged his own son to join Jetwing “I want him to start at the bottom of the ladder – he must make his own way. I hope he will learn and grow, and keep up the family tradition of success…”
“…I wanted to be a Criminal Lawyer and my ambition was to practice in courts following my father's footsteps…”
Growing up in the leafy suburbs of Ragama, Sanjeewa enjoyed a childhood of rustic idyll in a village atmosphere and the luxury of green surrounds. A diligent student at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo he also represented the school Chess team. “…my father is a renowned Criminal Lawyer and my mother is a housewife. While he was my role model, my mother was the reason for all my achievements and success, spiritually as well as professionally - my guiding light who encouraged me every step of the way…” he says with gratitude of the support he received from his parents. With this early leaning towards the legal profession inspired by his father, Sanjeewa entered Law College and qualified as an Attorney-at-Law. Continuing his passion for Chess he represented Law College team and obtained colours for two consecutive years. Looking back with fond nostalgia, Sanjeewa says “…my experience at the Law College is one of the best, most memorable times of my life…”
During this time, he also gained qualifications as a Chartered Management Accountant. And, while studying for his CIMA qualifications he joined M/s PricewaterhouseCoopers as an Audit Trainee to gain practical experience - his first job.
Sanjeewa joined Jetwing in 1996 as Finance Manager: “…one of my close friends - the Finance Manager at Jetwing at that time, had decided to go abroad and he introduced me to Jetwing. One day he called me in the morning and asked me to come within one hour for an interview. I was interviewed by our Founder and the Late Chairman, Mr. Herbert Cooray, our current Chairman, Mr. Hiran Cooray and Executive Director at that time, Mr. Romesh Lokuge. It was the start of my long career with the Jetwing family…” he says of his steady success to date. His commitment and proficiency soon saw him promoted as the General Manager – Finance, and then as the Executive Director of Jetwing Hotels. With overall responsibility for the legal and finance aspects of Jetwing, Sanjeewa also holds directorships at 12 other Jetwing companies. Additionally, he acts as Company Secretary for about 20 Jetwing companies. “…the freedom of decision making and the transparency of the company…” he states as his key motivating factor.
Deeply committed and passionate about the company’s progress, Sanjeewa confirms that “…Jetwing will continue to grow locally as well as internationally. We have a vision to be world class in everything we do…“ To that end he plans to continue to provide the strategic input required of him in new developments and diversifications and help add new experiences to all stakeholders of Jetwing.
“Being a Roman Catholic, I trust in the Lord Almighty and Mother Mary…” and steadfast in his faith, Sanjeewa cites the day he received First Holy Communion as one of the most significant moments of his personal life, and professionally – when he took Oaths as an Attorney-at-Law in the Supreme Court. He considers honesty to be the most important value to him as a person..
Very much a family man at heart Sanjeewa places high value on the time he spends with them. “…I have two younger brothers, the elder one is a Legal Counsel and the younger one is a qualified Chartered Accountant. My wife is a homemaker and a specialist in preparation of cake structures and cake decorating. Her faith, passion and continuous commitment is the secret of success in our family. I'm also blessed with a son and a daughter. They are studying at St. Joseph's College and St. Bridget's Convent respectively. I want my children to be happy and to develop spiritually and professionally…” he says with conviction. He is equally dedicated to his other family – Jetwing, and wants to see it become the best hospitality brand in the world.
“… I just wanted to travel, see the world, learn languages, meet people – work with people, and I am very lucky to have found a career that combines all that – it has been a great journey, so far…”
Bursting with effusive charm, he ‘gets you’, as it were, from the first ‘allo’ – and you are soon swept away by the vibrant energy that surrounds him like an aura; a warm glow that makes an instant fan of ‘Jerome Auvity’ out of you: a characteristic that has proved to be a great asset in life and profession.
From his childhood days, growing up in Paris, Jerome was keen to explore the world and seek new adventures. “…my Father advised me that maybe joining the hospitality industry was a good way to do all the things I wanted to do, at the same time…”. With the intent of getting a firm grounding in the hospitality industry, Jerome entered hotel school in Switzerland. And, heeding the call of distant lands, he began his long and certainly illustrious career, in the Far East – “… I was a cook in a pub in Taiwan…” he recalls with a laugh at his early days.
Taking up an opportunity at the Hilton in Taipei was a pivotal point that initiated a highly successful, 21 year career in the Hilton Group, spanning over 7 countries including Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam and Australia earning many landmark achievements to his name. Having been highly impressed by Sri Lanka and its people on a short visit, he was more than willing to rise to the challenge of steering Hilton Colombo forward as its General Manager “…when I was in Australia, I heard that Hilton Colombo was free and I said yes, Sri Lanka, this is the place I've always wanted to be…” Over the next three years there, Jerome’s passion for inspiring people and firm belief in leading by example singled him out as one of the most dynamic and distinct personalities in Sri Lanka’s hotel industry.
Jerome joined the Jetwing family in 2012 as Director Operations - Negombo Hotels, and now holds responsibility for the overall operations of all Jetwing hotels. Thriving in a role full of challenges and opportunities that he thoroughly enjoys, his enthusiasm and commitment helps Jetwing Hotels to constantly generate new ideas, explore innovative avenues of growing the business, and meet objectives – financial and otherwise.
A firm believer of fairness as a value he holds high – both professionally and personally, Jerome is devoted to his family, spending as much quality time as he can with them - especially his two children, aged 12 and 16. Very much an advocate of the active life, Jerome continues his passion for Tennis with regular time on the court, and when company with fellow compatriots permits, plays ‘Petanque’ – a distinctively French pastime.
“I believe in sustainable development, especially of people. And that a process approach delivers better results overall”.
Kanchana’s childhood was spent in Galle and Colombo with his supportive and somewhat strict family. Constantly a source of encouragement to him to excelled in his studies as well as in sports and he attributes his success to this firm and fair upbringing.
Moving to the capital city of Colombo as a child, Kanchana finished his secondary education and developed a deep desire to join the then blossoming hospitality industry. He wanted the opportunity to meet people, and moreover, take on the challenges of an industry which was not understood by many at that time. Taking up every such challenge, Kanchana was motivated to achieving his goals. A career in the hospitality industry means hard work, long hours and commitment, and Kanchana was able to take it all in his stride.
Looking back at his 25 year career, Kanchana is proud to have worked both overseas and in Sri Lanka in different capacities. After graduating from The Ceylon Hotel School in 1995, he immersed himself heavily in food and beverage operations, until joining Jetwing Hotels in 2002 as a Training Manager. After a stint overseas, Kanchana rejoined the Jetwing group in 2009 to overlook Training and Operations. From there on his career has been on a steady climb and Kanchana is now the Head of Human Resources at Jetwing Hotels. His role assures the smooth functioning of all HR and Training related operations at all the hotels and at Jetwing House - the HQ of the Jetwing Group.
With many responsibilities and challenges to face, Kanchana firmly believes in achieving a correct balance of work and leisure, and delights in spending time with his family. In addition, his hobbies of reading and listening to music, particularly the contemporary selections occupy his spare time.
Kanchana has a clear vision for the future: “…my plan is to develop the internal strengths and competencies of Jetwing Hotels, ensuring sustainable development of the organization, meaning that we are internally geared to face the challenges that are faced within a fast growing industry”.
“…I am a devout Catholic and I believe that with Christ as the centre of your life, you will never be disappointed. I am really proud of Jetwing and thank God for blessing me to be a part of Jetwing and having the opportunity to associate closely with our founder - the late Mr Herbert Cooray, whom I adored very much in my life.””
During her school days at the Ave Maria Convent in Negombo, Hyacinth had ambitions of becoming a doctor, a lawyer – maybe even an air hostess, something that involved dealing with people first hand. Although she was a conscientious student, she excelled at extracurricular activities being involved in sports, singing in the school choir, and making her mark in the school debate team. And, she also spent a lot of time being involved in social services projects. A true ‘native’ of Negombo, where she has lived most of her life, Hyacinth grew up in a large family with 5 sisters and 3 brothers. Her father was a Civil Engineer and her mother - who in her younger days had been a music teacher - had her hands full as a busy housewife.
“…I love people and always wanted to give my service to people. I disliked working with machines…” So when her elder sister – who is a Catholic nun introduced Hyacinth to Mr. Herbert Cooray through one of her friends, and an offer to join the hospitality trade was made, she took it up eagerly.
Beginning at the very beginning as it were, Hyacinth’s long and illustrious career has today reached a pinnacle – where she is considered one of the most dynamic ladies in the hotel industry today as one of the three female general managers in the hotel industry in Sri Lanka. She joined Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel (now Jetwing Blue) in 1977, 38 years ago. “…at the time, tourism was beginning to pick up, with the master plan that was introduced in 1970. I began to work as a Trainee Receptionist and held the positions of Front Office Manager, Assistant Manager and moved up to the post of General Manager and Director General Manager…” she reminisces of her life of progress at Jetwing. One of the first female General Manager in Sri Lanka, she held the position of General Manager at Hunnas Falls Hotel (then part of the Jetwing group) for three years as well. Today she is at the helm of two of Jetwing’s landmark properties as Director General Manager of Jetwing Blue - a 05 Star Beach Resort with 120 rooms and 307 staff and General Manager of Jetwing Beach – with 78 rooms and 215 staff.
An unmistakable force behind Jetwing’s continuing success, Hyacinth is very positive about the future: “The main goal is to get every staff member to maintain the high service standards and the consistency however difficult it is. As I have started my career 38 years ago joining Jetwing as a Trainee Receptionist and climbing the ladder up to a Director position I am always ready to accept any challenges and responsibilities in my carrier in the future. This is purely because Jetwing is a company that values people, encouraging and recognizing the people who are committed to their job and the Jetwing philosophy. Human resource is very important to Jetwing. If I can be a role model in some way for the future Jetwing generation, it will be a great honour.
A former secretary of the Kandy Hoteliers Association and a former president of the Negombo Hoteliers Association, she has witnessed drastic changes in the industry over the years. She hopes one day to sit back and enjoy her retirement and see Jetwing grow with the next generation.
Hyacinth spends whatever spare time she gets helping the needy in their difficult times, especially children who are less fortunate whom she supports with financial assistance. She also reads books, which, she says, help her personal life, and also loves to spend time with her two dogs at home.
“…I love what I do, and love my team – to me, Jetwing is my home, and my family. My faith in God is what has always motivated me, and that is where I draw strength from day by day…”
Exuding charm and impressing all who meet her, Rookamanie guides two of Jetwing’s signature hotels in Negombo – her hometown. A ‘local girl’ she studied at Newstead Girls College in Negombo, choosing Languages as her A/L specialisation, and during that time began working as a trainee receptionist at the Browns Beach Hotel – a Negombo landmark of old. Subsequently she was chosen to represent Sri Lanka internationally studying for her degree in Languages at the University of Vienna in Austria for 4 years. Returning to Sri Lanka in 1986, she joined the former Blue Oceanic (Now Jetwing Blue) as a Reservations Executive. Her natural ability and exceptional language skills soon saw her promoted to Guest Relations Officer and then PR Manager with the responsibility of representing and promoting the hotel, and Jetwing at International events.
Passionate about wellness, Rookamanie was a follower of the ancient tradition of Ayurveda which she studied from a respected ayurvedic physician in the area. Seeing its great potential as novel offering to guests, she convinced the management to give her the opportunity to start Ayurvedic wellness treatments at the hotel. Unlike today, Ayurveda was a totally new concept to the leisure industry at the time and Rookamanie was given two rooms to convert to indulge in her little whim – as it were. Demand, however, grew rapidly and quick to capitalise on this growing trend, she approached the management once again with a proposal to convert a nearby abandoned bungalow owned by Jetwing to a specialised Ayuvedic wellness centre – this resulted in the birth of Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions; and Rookamanie still refers to the hotel as ‘her baby’ nurturing it with loving care. She also initiated the addition of 24 new rooms and a special web page in German for Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions during her tenure.
Always ready for a challenge, Rookamanie was not fazed when she was given the task of rescuing the flagging fortunes of the former Seashells hotel. With a strong vision for the possibilities it held she recreated it, overseeing a complete rebuilding project that gave it a bright and modern concept – and Jetwing Sea is one of the most distinctive and successful properties in Negombo today. Managing two markedly different hotels, she considers as seeing with two eyes – a calm and collected style that reflects the positive energy at Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilion, and an efficient, more down to earth manner that keeps the wheels of Jetwing Sea turning smoothly. Devoted to her staff at both, she credits her achievements to their unwavering support, and the confidence they place on her. From January 2016, Rookmanie concentrates her efforts solely on Jetwing Sea and hopes to drive its progress to even greater heights.
A mother of two – her grown up children are currently starting their own businesses, after completing their studies overseas - Rookamanie is rightly proud of her career and her life as a vital member of the Jetwing family.
“…tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. I am truly inspired by the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, and it is a kind of philosophy I live by day in day out…”
Not often does one come across an all-rounder who ticks all the right boxes. Walking in to Hotel J, a budget hotel located in the sandy beaches of Negombo, it is hard not to notice the tall dark gentleman wearing a warm welcoming smile whilst he does a few multitasking rounds around the hotel. A true leader in his capacity as General Manager Alex directs and guides the team in all its functions. He believes in working with the team, cooperating and helping each other to deliver the best service to their guests.
Born and bred in Kadugoda, Waga, a small town close to Padukka, Alex would have never anticipated that he would master the hospitality trade in its entirety. Being the youngest in a family of 5 sisters and 3 brothers, most of whom got involved in the education sector Alex took on a road less travelled, much to the surprise of his father who was a Government Contractor and his mother -a housewife.
He had his Primary education at R.C. Mixed School, Mawalgama, where he was passionate about Volleyball and Basketball. He later joined St. Aloysius Seminary, Borella and was appointed Games Prefect and Senior Prefect where his leadership skills and his sporty, outgoing personality took shape. He also captained the under 17 Basket Ball team, and his avid passion for reading made him the president of the Sinhalese Literary union. His secondary education was at St. Peters College – Colombo, after which he followed WSET (Wines and Spirits Education Trust) course, up to intermediate level, completing it with flying colours.
It was only when one of his relatives introduced him to Mr. Prasanna Jayawardena – former General Manager of Browns Beach Hotel in Negombo, that he took his first step in a long and winding journey in Hospitality, as a Trainee Steward at Browns beach. Since then Alex had enjoyed an inspiring journey from Browns Group Motels Limited through Catamaran Hotel – Negombo, and Embudu Village Maldives to Peacock Beach Hotel – Hambantota where he gained experience in a variety of roles.
In May 1989 he embarked upon his career’s most vibrant stint - joining Jetwing Group as Manager for Sea Shells Hotel –Negombo. He moved on to the position of Resident Manager - Royal Oceanic Hotel and was promoted to General Manager - Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel, before he took on as General Manager - Jetwing Beach in 2011.
He is proud to have pioneered operations of Hotel J, the first of its kind by Jetwing and a fresh concept in Sri Lanka. He aspires to see this new concept popularised in Sri Lanka and around the world, reinforcing the brand of ‘Hotel J’ across continents. From 2016, Alex also takes on responsibility for Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions and is looking forward to sharing his experience and expertise towards taking another Jetwing landmark from strength to strength.
“…my mother is my role model in life, from the beginning she encouraged me to take up a career in the hospitality industry, she believed I would succeed and she has been a guiding light encouraging me every step of the way…”
Priyanthika had just completed her Advanced Level exams and was awaiting results when her mother posted an application on her behalf for a Hotel Management course – and was selected much to her mother’s delight. The course was in basic level housekeeping, and it was on that first day at Hotel School while she was listening to the introductory speech by the late Mrs. Pearl Heenatigala, the Principal of the Ceylon Hotel School, that a sense of determination came over her, and she set herself a goal: ‘I will become an executive housekeeper someday’. She describes her mother as a kind hearted, humble and educated lady who brought up seven children on her own, ever since her husband passed away. She encouraged Priyanthika to thrive in the hospitality trade, motivating her to continue studies up to Advanced Diploma in Housekeeping.
Living in the heart of Wellawatte, Colombo, Priyanthika attended Visaka Vidyalaya, and showed an active interest in sport. An avid cricket fan, she and her friends never missed watching the interschool ‘Big Matches’ played in Colombo. Eventually she herself, played cricket for the school, and played for the school netball team as well.
She started off her career as a trainee at Hotel Horizon Koggala, moving to become a Linen keeper and Housekeeping Supervisor. Working hard every step of the way, she rose from Assistant Housekeeper at Villa Ocean View, Wadduwa to finally realise her dream as an Executive Housekeeper at Wornel’s Reef Hotel, Beruwala. Having reached her goals early in life, she then took on a new challenge when she joined Palm garden Hotel in Beruwala in the same capacity.
Challenges in life come in many forms and she decided to take a step back from work when her mother fell ill, and Priyanthika moved closer to Colombo. This change was tough as her prior experience was mostly in the resort hotels. However, helped by a close friend, Priyanthika found an opening at the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo and was soon employed there as a Senior Assistant Housekeeper. Moving a step down the career ladder was a difficult transition but it was one she handled bravely, hoping for better prospects to come.
And indeed it did. In 1991 her career path transformed when she joined the Jetwing Group as Executive Housekeeper of Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel and Royal Oceanic Hotel (now Jetwing Blue and Jetwing Beach). Subsequent transfers and promotions within the group at Jetwing Lighthouse and Jetwing Vil Uyana - where her outstanding performance was noted by the management, Priyanthika was promoted as one of the few female General Managers in the Jetwing Group. She took on a challenge again in 2014 when she returned to Jetwing Lighthouse, Galle once more, and during her tenure she guided the team to win many global awards for the Hotel under her able leadership.
Hospitality is definitely a natural trait and she loves to entertain friends whenever time permits from her busy schedule and Priyanthika includes listening to music and astrology - she is a diploma holder in the subject includes as her pastime activity. Being sincere and candid Priyanthika prefers a practical approach when dealing with people. “I do not have bigger plans in my life, but I take whatever I get as a challenge’ modest words that describe her personality, perfectly.
“Tourism was booming in 70s and 80s. It attracted lots of youth and it was fun working in hotels and they earned good money. So I too joined hotels”.
The 6th in a family of 8, Gamunu was born in Matara, but his family moved to Kandy soon after and Gamunu received his primary and secondary education at Dharmaraja College, Kandy. His love for sports resulted in many wins playing for the school cricket and badminton teams.
Seeking his niche in a world of professions and joining the National Apprenticeship Board (NAB) was just the stepping stone Gamunu needed. Having successfully completed the course, he joined Mount Lavinia Hotel as a trainee steward in 1981. For the next 10 years, Gamunu trained and took on various positions at renowned hotels. Despite a tough and rather stressful schedule, he enrolled at the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management – formerly Ceylon Hotel School. Attending hotel school he worked the evening shift for Hotel Lanka Oberoi (presently known as the Cinnamon Grand). All that hard work brought results and Gamunu achieved his goal by completing the four year management diploma with a Second Class Upper, along with a specialisation in Food & Beverage operations. At the awards ceremony he went on to win “The Godfrey Perera Challenge Trophy” for the best student in wine studies in 1991. A Fellow Member of the Ceylon Hotel School Graduates Association since 1999’ he also serves in the Executive Committee of the Association.
Gamunu draws his inspiration of the hospitality industry, from Mr.S.V.Ranasinghe (former Restaurant Manager at Lanka Oberoi), the Late Mr. Rohan De Mel (former F&B Manager at Mount Lavinia Hotel & Lecturer at Ceylon Hotel School), and the Late Mr. Herbart Cooray (Founder Chairman of Jetwing).
With a string of achievements and a wealth of experience including a short stint in Saudi Arabia, Gamunu joined the Jetwing group in 1992 and has ever since worked at numerous hotels within the group around the island as well as overseas - in Laos; inspiring those around him with his charm and infectious smile.
‘I love reading and watching Rugby. I do little bit of painting too’ he says of his rare times of leisure. The proud father of a daughter who is studying in Bangalore, India and a son schooling at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo, his wife took retirement recently - but Gamunu has no plans to do so anytime soon ‘…because, I want to serve Jetwing as much as I can’ is his passionate confirmation on the matter.
“…I wanted to be a rock star, but my friend convinced me to join the hotel industry. As we were both musicians, I got the opportunity to work and play for a band as well…”
Starting his career as an entertainer at the hotel lobby charming guests with his guitar and voice, Wester’s bubbly personality and inimitable charisma appeals to all who meet him – helping him greatly in his role at the helm of Jetwing Lagoon.
Known fondly as the ‘singing hotelier’, Wester’s long career in the industry has taken him to some fascinating locations around the world, and he cites Yemen as a place which impressed him as being as historically interesting as Sri Lanka. Wester has also lived in Egypt for some time.
Passionately community conscious Wester is a firm believer of working closely with local people, creating tours in and around the area to promote the community and livelihoods to benefit them too. Leading his team at Jetwing Lagoon with equal commitment he states four aspects as his main areas of supervision to ensure smooth operations of the hotel: guests, staff, the property and profit. Each area, he says, has its own challenges and he finds the best way to overcome them is to maintain constant checks and ensure efficiency in each area.
Beginning his career at Jetwing in 2004, Wester joined Jetwing St Andrews and then on to Jetwing Lighthouse earning a reputation for success and personality in equal measure prior to moving North to Negombo to steer Jetwing Lagoon from the launch stage itself. The ‘rebirth’ of Jetwing Lagoon – formerly known as Blue Lagoon and architect Geoffrey Bawa’s first dream hotel – he considers as one of his most exciting projects to date. The secret to the hotel’s appeal, he believes, is not just its stunning location, but the fabulous design – especially the suites and chalets. He is also a dedicated supporter of Jetwing’s environmental policies and ensures that Jetwing Lagoon sets standards to that end as well.
Music has always remained close to his heart and you will often find Wester livening it up at Jetwing Lagoon entertaining guests with his songs as well.
“…hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend… this is a favourite quote of mine, and something I believe in strongly and try to apply to my work”
Hakmana, Matara in the extreme south of Sri Lanka is a peaceful and tranquil village virtually dozing in the shadow of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve is where Indika was born and bred in a large family with two brothers and two sisters. Both parents being in the teaching profession, he and his siblings enjoyed a simple and idyllic, environment in which they grew up. Educated at Central College in Matara, he represented his school in cricket. Although he did not become a star in the sport, he was a good player who stood out and was recognised.
Leaving school, he had no dreams of a career for himself, but was influenced by his brother who was a Food & Beverage Manager and also his Brother-in-Law who was a Chef. Gradually he was “steered” in the direction of the hospitality trade and decided that this would be his future. It is only when he actually stepped into this field that he discovered his natural talent and an interest in relating to people - a trait that served to spell his success in this field. In 1999 Indika started work as a trainee receptionist at the Oasis Hotel in Hambantota immediately after completing his first basic level course at the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management in Weligama. With determination and passion, Indika followed a Diploma in Hotel Management in 2005 and subsequently secured membership in the Ceylon Hotel School Graduates Association Executive Committee.
He joined the Jetwing group in 2006 as a Sales and Reservations Executive, and has progressed in leaps and bounds thereafter. The Jetwing group opened up many avenues to explore, which Indika relished - especially the opportunity to bring his talents to the fore and he stood out among the associates; so much so that Jetwing provided him the chance to study Tourism and Hospitality Management at one of the leading hotel schools in Netherlands known as ‘The Hague’ in 2012. Indika’s gratitude rests with the Management who recognised his talents and capabilities, opening the way for him to progress, and then later appointing him to manage the flagship Hotel at Jetwing Vil Uyana.
Jetwing Vil Uyana became the ideal playing field for Indika as it presented a variety of challenges which he met with ease. Striving to create better results, new innovations and changes, he ensures that the needs and requirements of not only the guests, but members of his staff are met. Indika firmly believes that maintaining good guest satisfaction is the key factor in the hospitality trade. “We cannot take any chances that can cause even the slightest dissatisfaction or unhappiness” he says. He also values the support of his executive team and all associates who contribute in great measure to make his task an easy one.
Spending time with his wife and little daughter, he considers as his fondest pastime. Indika is also full of appreciation towards his parents for providing him with ideas, advice and encouragement to be what he is today.
“…we had our honeymoon here, long years ago. Back then there was no adventure travel or such unlike today, if so I would have dared my new wife to go to Lover’s Leap waterfall by bicycle…”
Still exuding impish charm and natural warmth Leuke embodies the very spirit of Jetwing St. Andrew’s, bringing his own brand of lively, hands-on management style to further its success. His trade mark tie pin with a knife and fork clipped to it acts as a sort of symbol that represents his remarkable career of over 30 years – a steady rise from waiter to general manager.
Having gained valuable exposure overseas for several years, Leuke returned to Sri Lanka, and was overjoyed to be offered a place close to his heart – Jetwing St. Andrew’s was where he spent his honeymoon. Although nostalgic about its past he is equally excited about the hotel’s expansion nearly doubling its capacity, seeing it as a unique blending of the old and the new. “We will of course maintain the old charm and superb service that makes this a true country house with wood fires, afternoon cream teas, and sumptuous dinners in the grand wood panelled and copper ceilinged dining room…” he states with great enthusiasm.
During his tenure, he has seen many changes take place in the area with Nuwara Eliya fast becoming a destination of its own right. He has been quick to take advantage of the new influx with innovative offerings from the hotel such as golf packages, waterfall tours, cultural walks and such where guests can truly explore and learn more about the tea country. Leuke is also a keen advocate of social projects and being environmentally conscious and leads the hotel in initiating CSR projects that benefit the community and the locality.
‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new’
Born to a family of four in the beautiful countryside of Sweden, Robert hails from a family that always had a special place in their hearts for culinary delights. His father was employed in a garment factory and his mother was in charge of the somewhat daunting task of heading a Swedish school kitchen; and his grandmother was a chef at a Swedish castle; carrying out the planning and preparation of food for Swedish royalty. No surprise then, that Robert developed a passion for cooking from his younger days, which to date remains his single most favoured hobby. Keen on sports, he also played and coached basketball while in Sweden.
It was later that he discovered his flair for entertaining people - a fitting personality for the hospitality trade which he stepped into after his studies. Quickly making his mark, at 21 he was the youngest chef in a hotel in Sweden. Then quite suddenly the world was on his platter. Cyprus, Lebanon, Switzerland, Australia Germany and England were not just places he travelled, but countries he impressed by the high standards of his culinary and hospitality career.
With his practical approach to work, Robert has so far managed four hotel openings, and is now working on a grand preparation to welcome another landmark to the East coast of Sri Lanka. A bright presence on the white sandy beaches of Pasikudah, Sunrise by Jetwing is due to open its doors before April 2016. Robert has many plans for the hotel; customer satisfaction, and the career growth of his staff. Robert believes that keeping his staff motivated and happy is the key to the success of the hotel itself, a vital factor that would reflect in revenue growth.
Confident of foreseen success, Robert is an out of the box thinker, and with many novel ideas brewing in his creative mind he hopes to position Sunrise by Jetwing as the best hotel along the East coast.
‘Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never give up’
Nuwara Eliya, the quaint hill capital fondly known as ‘little England’, is where Kinglsley calls home: spending his childhood there with his 6 siblings and completing his schooling at Gamini Maha Vidyala. His mother worked as a nurse for a government hospital, and his father - who inspired Kingsley to join the hotel trade, was a hotelier himself before moving on to become an accountant for a leading brewery company. Encouraged by his father, Kingsley enrolled at the Ceylon Hotel School where he followed a 10 month cookery course.
Having completed the Ceylon Hotel School training in 1977, Kingsley joined the renowned Mt. Lavinia Hotel and trained under Maestro Chef Publis. From there on, Kingsley set his sights on working overseas. Bahrain was his first destination, and then, the UAE. After a short stint back in Sri Lanka, Kingsley set off to Germany. Based in the city of Koln, he took up appointments as chef at many renowned restaurants and hotels in Germany, gaining experience at the very best in the European hospitality industry. When Kingsley left Germany in 1997, he was the owner of the very popular, high profile restaurant ‘Brasserie Bruegel’.
Joining Jetwing Hotels as Group Executive Chef in 2015, Kingsley brings with him this wealth of experience gained overseas, and as the General Manager of Jetwing Vil Uyana, he hopes to take this landmark property to new heights of excellence. In addition to routine activity, Kingsley firmly believes in constantly bringing in new ideas and improving what is already in place. Setting international standards in total management of the industry is his goal.
‘All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy’ is precisely what Kingsley believes in: counting Golf, kick boxing and fitness among his hobbies; and enjoys every minute of his leisure time.
“…my roots and heritage are here in Jaffna, and it is good to return with a dream, and I am really looking forward to creating a lasting impression...”
On the silvery northern plains where palm trees reign, an iconic landmark is rising and behind ‘Jetwing Jaffna’s authentic Northern charisma is a man with a passion to give back his best to the land that made him who he is. Chris’s parents were originally from Jaffna. But by the time he was born - the 7th in a family of 8, they had made Colombo their home. He studied at Isipathana College, Colombo and soon after leaving school enrolled for a Diploma in Hotel and Catering - a choice that had to be justified to a deeply concerned father who expected him to have ambitions of a different kind.
After a 3 year course he joined Shipping Corporation as a chief steward in 1974, moving later to Browns Beach Hotel, Negombo as Sous chef where he was eventually promoted to General Manager. In 1984 amidst the political instability in the country, he migrated to Melbourne, Australia where he worked at a few 5 star hotels including ‘The Regent’ as Assistant Manager.
Taking a different turn in life, he joined the public service and completed a degree in Accounting and obtained a Graduate Diploma in Taxation. But he couldn’t elude his passion for the hospitality trade where his heart truly lay, and Chris returned to the field part-time as an assistant cook at Joe Wallace Catering, adding his culinary creativity to many Sri Lankan and western dishes. By the time he joined the tax office as a senior auditor; he had his own Indian restaurant specialising in exclusive Moghul food, which he successfully managed for over 10 years. Another achievement in his dual career was being awarded the ‘Australian Day award’ by the Commissioner of Taxation for his immense service to launch their 1st website with informative documentation translated to 6 languages.
After selling his restaurant his career took another tangent – and he was involved in event management till 2015 when he finally decided to come back to Sri Lanka with the aim of serving his motherland, and educating its younger generation. Thereby, the fitting opportunity - of making Jetwing Jaffna a reality, and being involved in the 'Jetwing youth development program' was one he took up eagerly.
A proud father to two sons - who are now married and living in Australia and in the UK, he considers this a wonderful opening to guide and mould the less privileged sons and daughters of Jaffna in a trade that he has mastered here and abroad. His wife, still in Australia, is also looking forward to joining him, to meet ‘Jaffna’ the new love of his life.
With high expectations for this project in hand he wants the hotel to specialise in exclusive, authentic Jaffna food and also aims to introduce good bakery products and a classy coffee shop. ‘Excellent service, good food and friendly staff’ will be the formulae of its success, he says with determination. He certainly lives by a 'never say die - never say cant’ attitude. “By the grace of God, my dreams for Jetwing Jaffna will soon become a success…” he affirms with confidence.
“…don’t compare yourself to others: that’s when you start to lose confidence in yourself…”
The lush tea country of the hills is where Thashinthan grew up as his father – a tea planter, was stationed there. Attending St. Thomas' College, Bandarawelaat the start of his schooling he completed his education at St. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia. While his father was busy with duties in the estates, his mother also continued her career as a school teacher, and Thashinthan remembers his childhood as one of much activity and fun with his sister – who now resides in UK. Taking a keen and active part in sport, Thashinthan represented St. Thomas’ College Bandarawela at Rugby, as captain of both Under 17 and Under 15 teams. An excellent athlete, he also earned National Colours at 100m in 1993.
Following his father’s footsteps, he too began a career in planting, and pursued it successfully for the next 15 years gaining a wealth of experience in the field, as well as in general management. However, although he was content, Thashinthan was looking for new challenges and wanted to take his career in a whole different direction. To that end, he welcomed the opportunity that came his way in 2013 to join Jetwing Hotels as a Villa Manager and proving his success was soon promoted to Resident Manager at Jetwing St. Andrew’s – still in his beloved tea country. In June 2015, Thasinthan was assigned a new project – to take overresponsibility as the Resident Manager at Jetwing Kaduruketha – one of Jetwing’s latest and most distinctive properties. “The main reason that I want to work as hotelier is that the industry is the fastest growing around the world and it offers great prospects for the future…” he says, holding no regrets about choosing a diversion in his professional journey – going from planter to hotelier. “Never let your past determine your future” is a maxim he believes in.
Thashinthan considers administration to be his strong point and an area that he shines in. “…I would like to be a leading personality in the hospitality industry...” he says of his ambitions. He also considers adaptability as an asset that has helped him progress to date. A dedicated team player, he is eager to explore the potential of Jetwing Kaduruketha, and aspires to use his extensive knowledge and skills towards nurturing its success.
Thashinthan devotes as much time as he can to his family – his wife, daughter and son who are 13 and 11 respectively. He also loves to spend time outdoors, especially in pursuit of ‘agricultural activities and landscaping’ as he calls it.
Faris is every inch the classic bungalow plantation manager up at dawn to tend to the estate in his farming boots, wielding a coffee knife he says “I’ve always had green fingers since I was young had a keen interest in coffee, which he revived in the area. Sighting his Yemeni trading ancestry as the reason for skill in making the highly successful Jetwing Warwick Gardens blend.” The evidence of this is in every cup of delicious coffee served along side freshly picked vegetables and fruits for the household guests daily meals.
Faris green fingers extend to growing eighteen different types of herbs, a rich variety of fruits and vegetables and he is particularly proud of his small herd of cows Daisy, Buttercup, Bluebell and Fanny, who mill around in the dairy constructed from the house’s old faded green tin roof who as well as providing the milk are excellent at keeping the grass down.
He is famous in the area for restoring classic cars and has an excellent eye for antique even if it’s covered in dirt and discovers lost gems in the most unlikely place. The sofa in the Jetwing Warwick Gardens study is just one of many pieces he rescued and restored. “I even found a bottle of vinegar bought for Rs. 1 in 1900.” With the help of architect Channa Daswatte, he helped turn this dilapidated home once again into a regal planter’s house on behalf of his boss Hiran Cooray.
Faris like the Jetwing owners of the estate is very much the family man who spends all his time off with his adorable daughter and wife, and with the occasional fishing trip thrown in. He says he gets all his best ideas waiting for the fish to snap up the bait and the latest one is no exception on how best to harness Mother Nature by using the areas waterfalls for alternative power.
Looking out onto Jetwing Warwick’s re-landscaped gardens that for decades vanished into thick undergrowth, it is easy to see why so much blood, sweat and toil has been put into bringing this 120 year old stone mansion back to life over the past ten years to recreate the plantation Raj of the British era, but with a twist Faris has done something far better he has produced an earthy regal lifestyle that now everyone can enjoy. Faris is a testament to the old planter’s life with a very modern perspective.
“…I may have travelled the world and sampled great cuisine, but my favourite chef is my wife, she prepares such tasty food…”
A devout family man and a simple soul with a ready smile, Nihal’s unpretentious manner belies the fame he has achieved as a celebrity chef supreme. Hailing from Galle he is a true Southerner at heart, and deeply rooted to his heritage he is a passionate advocate of the region’s cuisine. With an avid interest in the culinary arts he wanted to learn something new and different - to explore a possible career in the field. To that end, upon completing his schooling, Nihal joined Mount Royal Beach Hotel as a trainee cook. A quick and dedicated learner, Nihal was able to move on to the then Galadari Meridian to train under the tutelage of renowned French master chefs such as Antoine Rodrigues. He progressed steadily at the Galadari over the next 9 years, and his drive, commitment, and impressive ability enabled him to take his place with the elite chefs in Dubai where the Le Meridian gave him ample opportunity to gain valuable experience in a glittering world of five star glamour and the achieve the high levels of professionalism required to thrive in it. In this highly challenging atmosphere he was able to prove his proficiency and hone his skills, before returning to Colombo to take up position as Head Chef. During his tenure overseas, Nihal also gained wide global exposure participating in programmes in Hungary, Switzerland, China and Germany at five star hotels such as Radisson, SAS and Ramada.
Returning to his Motherland, Nihal joined Jetwing Lighthouse in 1997 in time for the hotel’s opening as a Sous Chef and has, over the years, risen to become its Executive Chef. Finding clear direction and a ‘second home’ at Jetwing Lighthouse; and with a restaurant named after him - the world renowned Nihal’s - he continues to be the quiet strength behind the reputation the hotel has earned for its unparalleled culinary excellence.
An executive committee member of the Chefs Guild of Sri Lanka Nihal also takes time off his busy schedule to train youth in the Southern district, sharing his vision and expertise, inspiring them to progress with the same drive and determination that enabled him to succeed. Passionate about local ingredients, he loves teaching about their versatility and value using choice picks from nearby village markets. His lessons are also liberally sprinkled with fascinating tales of Southern rural life. A voracious reader – especially on topics related to his field, his unceasing desire to learn and innovate makes Nihal a truly exceptional culinary expert.
“You can be very creative with seafood, and I enjoy working with any kind seafood. I am planning to have a prawn promotion called Prawn Passion early in 2016 at Jetwing Blue…”
A veteran Master Chef with over 36 years in the industry, Kennedy has been winning hearts with his inimitable culinary flair at Jetwing Blue for a decade. Born in Pamunugama, he completed his education at Gonzalves College, Pamunugama. Drawn to the prospects of the culinary arts and the hotel and leisure industry, he joined Hotel Seashells, Negombo - (currently Jetwing Sea) as a kitchen trainee, moving onto Mount Royal hotel in Mount Lavinia (now Berjaya Mount Royal). After a successful tenure there as Head Cook Kennedy sought greener pastures – in the Middle East, namely the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
On his return to Sri Lanka he joined the Ramada Renaissance, Colombo (now Cinnamon Lakeside) as a Chef de Partie. His career took a diversion when he joined a cruise liner in Miami touring the Mediterranean islands. With 2000 passengers on board, it was a tough challenge, and much hard work. However, he became an expert Mexican cuisine as there was a big demand for it from the passengers. “The nice thing about being on the cruise liner was the sense of comradeship among the staff of different nationalities” said Kennedy. Seeking terra firma again, he returned to the Middle East joining the Sheraton in Oman. And, coming back home to Sri Lanka, Kennedy joined the Taj Airport Garden (current Gateway Airport Hotel), Katunayake as a Sous Chef. His long and illustrious relationship with Jetwing began when he joined Jetwing Beach as Executive Sous Chef and was soon promoted to Executive Chef at Jetwing Blue.
During his overseas sojourns Kennedy honed his knowledge of different cuisines. Working with chefs of diverse nationalities broadened his horizons immensely. “Reproducing the identical taste of a dish in a country other than its native country is not easy. Sometimes substitute ingredients have to be used- even if identical ingredients are grown or imported, factors like climate can affect the texture and taste”. However, today the conditions are much better…“he says, with the market being flooded with hundreds of different ingredients”.
Passionate about authentic Sri Lankan fare Kennedy took part in a very successful Sri Lankan Food Promotion in Switzerland, and always keen to share his wealth of knowledge, he takes an active part in the Jetwing Youth Development Programme, training school leavers in the Negombo area and also hotel staff in Batticaloa.
Keen to broaden his culinary horizons, he spends much time keeping up with the latest trends and trying out new dishes using a variety of ingredients - including experimenting with local spices. His innovations and ingenuity continues to impress guests at Jetwing Blue. “My loyal team and I are deeply committed to give guests the very best we can offer…” he says.
Quite a celebrity on national TV, Kennedy is a popular presenter food programmes on MTV, Swarnavahini and ITN, he also compiles recipes for publications such as Gourmet circle, Food and health, and several local magazines. He is currently the President for the Negombo region of Chefs Guild of Lanka. To relax Kennedy loves to listen to retro music, and ensures that he has quality time with his family.
“…when you can, you should eat like a king”
Kala as he is fondly known to friends and colleagues alike, his passion for the culinary arts is deep-rooted indeed. Hailing from the Southern coastal city of Matara, little Kala drew inspiration from local village cooking and his mother’s expertise in the kitchen – and he often offered some very creative ideas whenever he was helping her. Gaining his education from St. Servetus' College, Matara, Kala took the first vital steps in his professional career by enrolling at the hotel school and working with Serendib Hotel, Bentota “…the harder way is the right way, is something I have always believed in…” he says.
His commitment to his profession has certainly paid rich dividends – Kalanapriya is one of the most awarded chefs in the country – and is renowned for his brilliant culinary creations. Through his first steps at Serendib Bentota his intrinsic flair for artistic creation was soon spotted and he was promoted to Kitchen assistant. Taking up a post as Demi Chef de Partie / kitchen artist at the Abu Dhabi National Hotel in UAE and later in Saudi Arabia and Oman, he gained valuable international exposure. Upon his return to Sri Lanka his career progressed steadily on its upward journey at many leading hotels in Sri Lanka, including Tropical Villas, Beruwela, The Blue Water, Wadduwa and Earls’ Regency, Kandy and many more.
A culinary artist extraordinaire Kalanapriya’s list of accolades gathered over the years both locally and internationally recording several gold, silver and bronze awards in a range of categories exemplify his supreme skill. Noteworthy amongst them is achieving first place at the Australian Black Box 2000 culinary challenge held at the Hilton Hotel Sri Lanka. Joining Jetwing in 2009 as Executive Sous Chef Kala has been impressing guests at Jetwing Beach since then with his captivating culinary creations and soon was promoted as an Executive Chef.
Easy going by nature, his priorities are spending quality time with his family, particularly his son. His rare hours of leisure are spent taking long walks with his dog, or catching up with his reading – mostly looking out for new creations to try out.
“…I love cooking, and I really enjoy creating special dishes. And I do that often for people who are not so fortunate in life. I am very committed to helping those in need, and this is my way of doing something special for them too…”
Warm hearted and charming, Leon’s generosity of spirit is as appealing as the culinary masterpieces he is famed for producing. Studying at St Benedict’s College, Kotahena and achieving excellent A/L results, his dream was to venture into veterinary sciences, but his career path was diverted (thankfully for us) towards the hotel industry by his mother – who was already employed in the field. Having completed his grounding at the Sri Lanka Hotel School, he joined Villa Ocean View in Wadduwa as a Kitchen Assistant and while he enjoyed the work and his hands on learning, the travelling (…km) from his home town in Wattala to Wadduwa on a daily basis proved too much and Leon looked for opportunities close to Colombo. He soon found it at one of the leading 5 stars in the city – Trans Asia (now Cinnamon Lakeside); joining as a ‘Commis 3’ he was soon promoted to ‘Commis 1’. Yearning to broaden his horizons with international exposure, Leon took up a lucrative post in the Middle East and spent 5 years in Saudi Arabia working at many leading resorts there.
Returning to Sri Lanka due to pressing family commitments, Leon completed further training at the Ceylon Hotel School and joined Tropical Villas in Beruwela (a Jetwing Hotel at the time), moving on to Blue Waters, Wadduwa (also under Jetwing back then) as Executive Chef. However, the call of the wide world beckoned again and he left to the Maldives – spending over 6 years at many 5 star resorts there at senior level. Back in Sri Lanka for a short stint, he helped set up Dilmah Tea Trails venture as their first master chef. Returning to the Jetwing fold, Leon joined Jetwing Lagoon in 2011, and has been charming guests and his 34 strong team alike with his personality and his culinary creations ever since.
“I don’t like Cricket” he says, preferring the faster pace of football and basketball. But he is also a seeker of quiet pursuits; music has been soothing his soul from a very young age. Whatever task he is at – whether work, or rest, he will always be surrounded by music: especially sentimental golden oldies.
His favourite task is to explore the web for novel recipes which he can recreate using distinctly Sri Lankan ingredients – adding a whole new twist to them. Leon’s signature dishes – the Red Snapper with Green Asparagus and the Lemon Curd Tart are indeed legendary, and a must try on the Jetwing Lagoon menu.
“…the successes of life are based on tolerance, dedication and responsibility are two wise words that I always attempted to live by…”
Born in Kelaniya – his father’s hometown, Subath grew up amidst the hustle and bustle of urban life. He never dreamed that when he left his cherished school days at Kelanitissa Vidyalaya Gonawala to move to Habarana where his mother’s relatives lived, he would be entering a whole new chapter in his life. At Habarana he was close to some of the most significant and beautiful landmarks of Sri Lanka including the world renowned Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Habarana was a picture perfect portrayal of friendly, simple people, seeped in Sri Lankan culture, history and as well as culinary traditions.
Subath enrolled at the Habarana Maha Vidyalaya to continue his studies, where his love for sports blossomed. Long distance running and team sports such as Cricket and Football were his favourites. He made many friends at school, and when it came to choosing a career path, he listened to the good advice of a school mate who was working at the Hotel Sigiriya who gave him insight to the flourishing hotel industry and how he could put his skills to good use. Thus, he began his tenure in the hotel industry as a kitchen helper at Hotel Sigiriya, where his enthusiasm enabled his quick progress to Assistant Cook. After a further successful period in Galway Forest Lodge – Nuwara Eliya, and some overseas experience at Meeru Island, Maldives he joined Jetwing St. Andrews in 2006 as Chef de partie.
Since then he has teamed up with at least 5 chefs, including Chef Lal whose support and advice he values greatly. ‘The bond between people at Jetwing is like that of a family’ he says ‘working together is so satisfying’. He considers hard work as accomplishments and personally rewarding, recalling the hectic days, the achievements being celebrated with the team over a quick game of carrom.
Enthusiastic about his future plans, Subath wants to revamp the a la carte menu with a variety of Indian dishes to suit the upcoming season. Subath has already captivated the interest of many foreign guests through cooking demonstrations on authentic Sri Lankan dishes like ‘Batala Roti’ (sweet potato roti) and hopes to hold more to get the guests involved as well. Strawberry is one of the signature fruits of Nuwara Eliya and he is planning to create new a la carte menu including a wide variety of strawberry based dishes using freshly grown strawberries from the locality.
At his present residence in Kelaniya, Subath enjoys spending time with his wife, 2 children and 2 foster children - a poignant story of Subath’s personal life. During his early years in the industry Subath’s best friend and co-worker was fatally injured in a motorbike accident, and Subath undertook the task of fostering the 2 little children who were left behind after their mother deserted them. Marrying later, Subath has 2 children of his own too, and is a proud father of 4. It is very evident that his philosophy of dedication and responsibility is truly lived by, every day.
“I believe that natural is best, and always try to use fresh ingredients which I can source locally…”
Born in the southern city of Galle, his parents were employees in the Government sector. Starting at an early age, Mahesh was particularly fond of painting and arts. His school Meepawala Amarasooriya College, in the Southern district of Galle, encouraged this talent, which later contributed to his career today as a chef. He also took an active interest in sport and excelled in Cricket and Volleyball.
His inborn talent in artistry and creativity eventually lead to an interest in the culinary field. Self-inspired, he chose the hotel industry and began his career as a kitchen artist. Always confident in his own abilities, Mahesh recognized his own talent and was greatly encouraged by the wonders he could create in the kitchen. Being the artist he was, working with colors, lines, and shapes allowed Mahesh to expand his creative sense which he ably applied to his professional career.
Mahesh’s culinary exploits have certainly been numerous, and during his career, he has earned many accolades. As well as being a winner of the coveted Chefs Guild award, Mahesh has received many awards in the industry. What stands out most though, is the fact that his journey from its humble beginnings as a kitchen artist to an Executive Chef came within a span of just 15 years. Looking ahead at his career progression, Mahesh would one day like to serve as a General Manager.
Winning the love of his partner, Mahesh considers as being the best accomplishment he has ever achieved. His wife, Thiwanka is a Front Office Executive at Aditya Resort in Galle, who also efficiently manages a busy home, raising their 2 sons (ages 8 and 3). Mahesh is fully content with his career and personal life and firmly believes in living to enjoy and cherish each moment.
“…cooking is winning hearts and my aim is to promote healthy, wholesome food, to create unique dishes of authentic Sri Lankan cuisine blending with the Ayurveda concept…”
A resident of the Negombo district more or less all his life, Rohan’s home town was Minuwangoda and he began schooling at a Roman Catholic school in Yatiyana till grade 8, and then attended St. Sebastian’s College at Kandana for his higher studies. A keen sportsman, Rohan was very involved in athletics and excelled at discus throwing. His Father was a building contractor and his mother, a housewife; Rohan grew up in a large family with 3 brothers and 2 sisters to share his fun filled childhood escapades.
Rohan’s interest in cooking began at an early age, and he was very keen on becoming a Chef someday. A TV programme called ‘Intimate Escapes’ was Rohan’s inspiration - seeing various dishes and food types being prepared, particularly the varieties of food around the world. The wonders of the culinary world seemed a fascinating one he wanted to explore in depth.
His entry into this dream career began when he joined Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel (now Jetwing Blue) as a Kitchen Helper in 1998, and he has grown with the Jetwing family ever since. Rohan’s hard work and determination to succeed soon saw him climb steadily up the career ladder, quickly moving from the three Commis levels at Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel and at Jetwing Beach to become Demi Chef de Partie there in 2006. Promoted to Chef de Partie in 2008 and to Junior Sous Chef in 2011 he continued to make his mark at Jetwing Beach. He moved to Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions in 2014 to continue as Junior Sous Chef and continues to impart his considerable talents to date.
An achiever of many accomplishments in the competitive world of culinary arts, Rohan has a string of awards to his name: with accolades for subjects ranging from carving to creative cuisine. Although Rohan’s career has been based in Sri Lanka, his devotion to exploring the fantastic array of fare from various nations is very apparent in the dishes he prepares. With a great interest in fusion cooking and always exploring new ways to combine unusual ingredients and conjure up innovative fare his favourite recipe is the Dhal and Maldive Fish Pattie – his signature dish.
Devoted to his family – his wife and two young sons, he contrives to spend as much time as possible with them – especially to be a guiding light for his children to follow. An avid reader, Rohan also loves gardening and tries to extend his creativity there too.
“…there is a lovely saying ‘Sathya Shakthiyak’ - truth is strength, by Shantha Jayasundara, it is indeed something I really believe in, and apply to in my life too…”
Born in Thanamalwila – a rural outpost in the South East of Sri Lanka, Lasantha is glad to have enjoyed the simple, but increasingly disappearing charms of village life which he recalls as an enchanting experience. With 7 siblings to share his escapades, it had been a very active and fun filled childhood indeed. Lal’s father passed away early in life and it was his mother who carried the burden of bringing up all the children.
Cookery had always intrigued Lasantha. His focus and interest in the subject led him to step into the field of hospitality. He was introduced to it by his brother-in law who was in the tourism industry and Galway Forest Lodge was where Lasantha began his career. Joining the hotel as a kitchen helper, he also enrolled at the National Apprenticeship Board (NAB) to simultaneously do his studies. Juggling a full time job and studies was tough, but Lasantha’s sheer determination saw him not only complete the 3 year course successfully, but also progress on the journey of success to reach where he is today.
Over time, Lasantha has gained years of professional experience commencing at Yala Village as 1st Commis and another year in Maldives at Meeru Island resort also in the same capacity. Back in Sri Lanka, Lasantha began working at The Grand Hotel at Nuwara Eliya, then Peacock Beach – Hambantota, before joining the Jetwing Warwick Gardens in 2011, where he has been ever since.
With a vision to improve culinary options that cater especially to foreign visitors of the hotel, Lasantha is a keen advocate of promoting local delicacies as well. His favourite recipe - the Sri Lankan Country style Vegetable Soup - is simple, but scores high on flavour and goodness. Lasantha recalls with pride how impressed the Chairman of the Jetwing group was after tasting this special soup. In addition Lasantha’s signature dish is the Beef ‘Smore’. Using only the freshest of local ingredients, it has a unique flavour with added hints of lime and mango.
Lasantha is full of praise for Jetwing - particularly recalling poignant memories when the tsunami of 2004 struck more or less destroying Jetwing safari hotel. At this time he was employed at the nearby Yala Village Hotel. Assisting in every way they could, the Jetwing Group had reached out to all the affected members of staff and their families, he recalls with gratitude.
Whenever he finds time to spare Lasantha enjoys reading, and playing volleyball - his favourite sport. A proud father of a 5 year old daughter and 2 year old son, Lasantha is devoted to his family and is very content with his life and his home at Keppetipola way up in the hills of Nuwara Eliya.
“…on a good day, I have sighted over 25 Blue Whales. These majestic creatures are my passion. I love their grace and sheer size”
Anoma – our resident Naturalist and Jetwing’s Cetacean expert has committed his life to the study and preservation of nature. His interest in nature goes back to his childhood, growing up in Kottawa in the Galle region. The lush forest surroundings close to his home provided him much entertainment, and many hours were spent absorbing the wonders around him. “I used to lie on the cool shade of old forest trees and watch the birds, listening to their songs” – this dreamy appreciation grew into a passion, and on to become his career choice and vocation in life.
Upon leaving school, Anoma began his career at the Galle Maritime Museum under the tutelage of its curator Mr Dharma Sri Kandamby – a keen representative of the Wildlife Conservation Society at national and international platforms whose vast experience as a scientific collector includes the discovery of a new species of endemic frogs and crabs. Accompanying his mentor on such voyages of discovery, Anoma was soon an equally dab hand at finding and identifying the wealth of natural life around him, including the discovery of a new species of endemic lizards, freshwater fishes, frogs and freshwater crabs. These projects continued to become the subject of numerous research papers which Anoma compiled as part of his Wildlife Conservation & Management Programme at the Open University, and Biodiversity Management Diploma at the University of Colombo.
Anoma joined Jetwing in 2014 and plays a vital role today as one of our key experts on the wilds of the Southern region of Sri Lanka. As the resident naturalist, Anoma enjoys the opportunity to share his passion - to communicate the importance of the natural world and with guests from around the world. He leads interactive whale watching tours during six months of the year – at high season, he is also involved in planning new education programmes, and conducting workshops as well as attending industry related conferences and workshops.
Dedicated and enthusiastic, Anoma is currently applying innovative conservations methods to preserve and improve the propagation of Southern region Marine life. He has participated as a field assistant and organised infrastructural studies in research campaigns conducted by eminent British academics and marine biologists, referenced in Wild Heritage Trust adding rare insights to the country’s wild habitats. Anoma’s studies have been published in the Journal of South Asian Natural History offering his unique contribution at global standards. He has also worked in conjunction with the National Maritime Museum Galle and is a proactive member of the Galle Wildlife Society as well as of BEES – Biodiversity Exploration and Education Society.
A licenced, Ceylon Tourist Board Guide and Lecturer, Anoma is a very active and supportive member of the Blue Whale Conservation Group at Mirissa. As the resident naturalist, he is keen on promoting conservation through tourism increasing local revenue via continuous dynamic strategies. The company’s firm commitment to the environment and proactive support to his personal and professional vision has enabled Anoma to set his sights on bigger goals. Anoma is completing his research into the largest mammals of the deep and has set up Sri Lanka’s first whale watching information centre at Jetwing Lighthouse. While he still answers the call of the wild from the forests of his childhood, it is the songs of the deep that beckon him today to discover more mysteries of the Ocean in the future.
“Confucius said that if you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years plant trees, if in terms of 100years, teach the people, this is one of my favourite quotes and a principle I believe in…”
Chaminda understood the value of nature from a very young age, and was happiest when outdoors discovering the wonders of Mother Nature’s creations. He grew up in and attended school in an area near the Dimbulagala forest and the archaeological sites of Polonnaruwa and visited the forest as often as he could, learning to identify the abundance of wildlife so near at hand. He also took time to learn as much as possible about the birds, mammals and reptiles that were found there. This yearning for knowledge and the desire to preserve his environment inspired him to study his subject further and to choose a career in the field. The boom in Eco-Tourism also provided an incentive and having completed his studies Chaminda was keen to share his knowledge and to promote the importance of protecting and maintaining our country’s incredible eco-systems.
Chaminda joined Jetwing in 2009 and as the resident naturalist at Jetwing Vil Uyana, he plays a pivotal role in promoting and preserving the surrounding wilderness. One of his favourite creatures is the rare Grey Slender Loris and Chaminda is passionately involved in the Loris Conservation project, keeping a watchful eye and diligently recording their activities. Rather a celebrity in Loris academic circles, Chaminda has published a book on the species - ‘Dry Zone Slender Loris – A Photographic Educational Guide’ the only publication of its kind, and has also been featured on the BBC and National Geographic.
Chaminda has a wealth of knowledge gained first hand through many years of exploring and he particularly enjoys sharing quirky and unusual aspects of nature to his guests. Highly committed to conservation Chaminda takes every opportunity he can to share the message of preserving nature. Through excursions and nature tours as well as educational workshops Chaminda is keen to show people how they could protect their environment and ecosystem and also how community involvement can help to upgrade rural livelihoods in a positive manner. An avid birdwatcher and photographer, Chaminda also spends as much of his spare time on these two activities.
“Nearly half of Sri Lanka’s bird species can be found in Nuwara Eliya and the surrounding areas… there is so much of wilderness to experience here.”
The resident expert on the hill country, Ishanda is driven by a passionate enthusiasm to share his immense store of knowledge on the region’s wilderness and to learn more about the natural world he loves. Young and adventurous, his interest in nature was inculcated from his childhood, growing up in Peradeniya, Kandy where there were plenty of natural wonders to keep him enthralled. A keen student of Kingswood College, Kandy he joined the Young Explorers Society at school and in 2006 become vice president. Joining the Young Zoologist’ Association (YZA) in 2007, he followed the courses of study groups on Reptiles, Mammals, Birds and Aquatic life under the YZA’s environmental education program. He also actively participated in many of YZA’s wildlife and environmental conservation projects including studies of biodiversity in several forest remnants in the country. A dedicated member to date, he has held a number of posts in the society including Treasurer and Vice President of the Action committee, and also takes part in voluntary work for the Zoological Gardens in Dehiwela. He also regularly serves as a voluntary teacher on wildlife and nature conservation topics to school children and the general public. A member of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) he is also an Affiliate member of the Ceylon Bird Club.
Ishanda completed his Diploma in Biodiversity Management, from the University of Colombo Sri Lanka in 2013, and a completed his Postgraduate Diploma in Environment Management also from the University of Colombo in 2015. He is currently reading for his Masters in Environment Management there, and also for a Diploma in Paleo-biodiversity from the University of Kelaniya.
His interests in life span all outdoor activities from nature photography, wildlife art to hiking, camping and even snorkelling. An avid cyclist he considers it to be a great way to explore the beauty of the hill country and is keen to develop bike tours in the area. To that end, he continues to ride and map out new, exciting routes to take his guests – such as a scenic early morning ride to Shantipura, the highest village in Sri Lanka.
His wealth of knowledge on the wilderness of the area makes every excursion, tour or trek a voyage of discovery to all who accompany him. Always planning out little voyages of discovery that seek creatures beyond the norm, he is especially proud of the Frog Watching Tour he initiated at the hotel, and is a devout promoter of this venture.
“…if you just take a second to look closely at the sand you will be amazed at the animal life that thrives there - all these little things we miss out, there is a whole world to discover right there. This is what I want our guests to see too… to know that there is more to the beach than sunbathing, to explore the wealth of natural life at their feet.”
Jetwing’s own ‘animal whisperer’ – Chamara is one who can talk to and talk about animals with equal passion and inspires all those who meet him with his deep commitment to preserving nature. Chamara’s love for the natural world was instilled early in life during his childhood days in Deraniyagala and he chose to pursue higher studies in in Wild Life Conservation & Management at the Colombo University. He also holds a Diploma in Biodiversity Conservation and Management and a Postgraduate Diploma in Environment Management from the University of Colombo and is currently reading for his MSc. in Environment Management there. Concurrently, he is also reading for a Postgraduate Diploma in Paleo Biodiversity at the University of Kelaniya.
Always an adventurer at heart, he is keen to encourage other young people to share his passion for nature. Full of innovative ideas, he played a key role in the Youth Exploration Society of Sri Lanka and at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy helping to take the message of protecting and preserving natural habitats and species to youth in our country as well as around the world. His commitment resulted in the development of an extensive multimedia database for which he received a PEM Internship Award in 2010. He also worked on the PAM project a member of the research team.
He joined Jetwing Blue as our Naturalist in October 2010 and has since been a dedicated promoter of the wealth of natural and cultural treasures in and around Negombo. He takes great pleasure in taking guests on the excursions and tours – his wealth of knowledge and expertise enables him to make these experiences even more exciting to the guests. He is particularly passionate about the wildlife found in these areas – especially along the historic Dutch canals. Chamara is equally dedicated to keeping the environment clean and has organised many clean-up operations on the beaches of Negombo and other conservation areas through our CSR programmes. He is devoted to the campaign to keep Negombo’s beaches as the cleanest and the best in the country.
Photography is his other burning passion. A hobby that has now become almost a profession, he is excellent at capturing the essence of nature – a topic closest to his heart. He loves sharing his extensive array of images with guests. Chamara’s devotion to his profession and his passion for nature is truly infectious, and all who meet him are inspired to share his commitment too.
“…my favourite field activity is bird watching. I am an active member of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka, and through them, I gain a lot of knowledge and experiences which are very valuable to plan my excursions and nature tours…”
With a calm and collected manner that belies the fierce passion he holds for his field of expertise, Hemantha has always held a fascination for wild life. Growing up in a rural village in Hamangall, near Kurunegala, he cultivated a keen interest in the nature around him. Studying at Maliyadeva College, Kurunegala, he became a prominent member of the school’s nature club. His interest in wild life and conservation never waned, and while completing his degree in Food Science and Nutrition he joined the university’s exploration society – named Wadula, where he could continue his nature based activities.
After graduating however, his career path took a different turn when he joined the Sri Lanka Navy. However, Hemantha continued to be actively involved in the Young Zoologist Association, championing the cause of environmental responsibility and reducing pollution during his tenure. Returning to his true calling, Hemantha joined Jetwing Blue in 2013 as the resident Naturalist where he has played a vital role in promoting the hotel’s nature tours and in assessing new opportunities to that end too. His favourite excursions include the Muthurajawela canal ride and tours to Wilpattu National Park. Hemantha’s unstinted efforts and deep commitment to his role as resident naturalist has helped to bring positive financial results as well – recording the highest excursion revenue for 2013/2014.
Combining his knowledge of agriculture and his background in the Navy he helped to initiate and design the Uswetakeiyawa Naval Agriculture Park. Hemantha used this experience to transform a bare and infertile plot of land into the now thriving agricultural park at Jetwing Beach. The park includes an organic farm producing fruits, vegetables and herbs for use by the hotels as well as several local species of mangroves which further increase the ecological value of the park which has attracted several birds and reptiles. Hemantha spends his free time experimenting and exploring the application of edible gardening concept which is further evidenced by the fact that he introduced the first polytunnel to Jetwing hotel by recommendation of under Mr. Jude Kasthuriarachchi The director Engineering of Jetwing Hotels. In the first few months of operation the greenhouse yield has far exceeded expectations and supplies both Jetwing Beach and Jetwing Blue with excess to spare for the other Jetwing hotels in Negombo.
Drawing on his natural ability at preparing and conducting impressive presentations and his intrinsic people skills he actively organises quiz nights and other activities to promote nature tours and drive home the message of conservation. He is also a keen advocate of the campaign to keep Negombo’s beaches pristine, playing a vital role in clean up drives.