By Kevin Gallagher
We are devastated by the loss of our dear friend and colleague Jeyakumar Kanagarajah – Ravi to us and to the city that came to love his soup.
We first met Ravi when he came to work at Mildred Pierce as a dishwasher substitute for his uncle. He was a skinny eighteen year old with a blinding grin; a grin he never lost. He handled the dishwashing duties easily, leaving him time to help in the kitchen. He was focused and clearly knew what he was doing, so when he proposed to Donna and Anne Yarymowich that he make a soup for them, they readily agreed. They are both dedicated culinary nurturers, happy to make gentle suggestions that will improve the end result. But they had few suggestions for Ravi. His soup was complex, smooth and subtly seasoned. It wasn’t long before he was making the daily soup for the restaurant, using the same ordinary, seasonal ingredients that regularly passed through the kitchen but producing soups that were somehow exotic and very satisfying.
There was a little confusion at first because Ravi did not work from a recipe and did not write down the ingredients he’d used. He would make soup on the evening shift and store it in the walk-in fridge for the next day. In the morning, there would be a circle of cooks around a bowl of it trying to identify the constituents before lunch service.
Often after praising the soup to a customer, more than one server stumbled when asked about the ingredients:
“Is it made with chicken stock?
“What about cream or dairy?”
Ravi eventually did start writing down his recipes, although there was never a guarantee he would stick to them. Something new and interesting might come through the delivery door.
It was Donna who proposed that he open a chain of soup restaurants, even suggesting that he call it Ravisoups. She thought that every airport in the world should have one for what could be better for an exhausted traveller than a bowl of good soup? Warm, substantial and uplifting.
Ravi didn’t just make soup for us. He cooked on the line and was the pancake king at brunch. I remember well looking up to the line from the apparent mayhem of the dining room to see him working – calmly, quickly and always with the brilliant grin flashing.
When he left our kitchen after twelve years, we wished him well and we have followed his success with satisfaction and not a little pride. That he should go when he was poised for even greater success is disheartening and a great loss to our community and especially to his family.
Ravi will not soon be forgotten not for his soup, not for his skill and not for his grin.