BY BILLY SUTER
FROM relatively humble beginnings as a steward at the Aqua Restaurant at Sibaya Casino, near Umhlanga, Kervin Barnes is now a passionate sushi chef who is keen to share the art and taste for sushi.
“Sushi is a creative culinary art that chefs spend hours perfecting. It is also an acquired taste and through my work I hope to encourage more people to try it and appreciate it,” he says.
Barnes joined Sibaya’s Aqua in 2009 and enjoyed watching and learning from the chefs in the kitchen. In 2012, he jumped at the opportunity to learn new skills and applied for a commis chef position which had become available.
On his days off, he spent his days off with the sushi chefs and quickly became captivated with the art of sushi preparation. The hours spent learning from them paid off and in 2013, he was appointed as a sushi chef.
During the seven years he has been at Sibaya, he has enjoyed being mentored by its chefs and having had the freedom to be creative and develop his skills.
Barnes, 32, who is from Richard Bay, but now lives in Phoenix, is currently attending the International Hotel School for National Professional Cookery.
There have been many highs and lows during his journey. His most embarrassing moment, he recalls, was while preparing prawns and prawn water squirted into his eyes.
“My eyes became so swollen, they were almost sealed closed and everyone laughed. At the time I didn’t know that I was allergic to prawns.”
He lists his mom as his main mentor and inspiration, while he considers his dad, with his strong character and leadership skills, as his role model.
“My mom is my mentor. She is very religious and has instilled good values in me during my upbringing.”
Though sushi is his passion, his favourite food is Italian and he also appreciates a hearty plate of lamb chops, mash and mushrooms. During his downtime, he goes to gym and enjoys watching sport and socialising with friends.
I chatted to Kervin about his newfound passion……………………………………………..
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT SUSHI THAT MADE YOU GIVE UP YOUR DAYS OFF TO LEARN MORE ABOUT IT?
I was just passionate about sushi. I liked the creativity and art of sushi-making. I used to go for lessons on a Wednesday, my one day off each week.
HOW DID YOU FIRST BECOME INTERSTED IN SUSHI?
I used to watch the chefs on duty, and that’s when I started liking the cooking industry as a whole.
YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT LEARNING TO MAKE SUSHI?
Over-cooking the rice… and knife skills scared me a lot while learning to make sushi. I think the hardest part was peeling a cucumber.
WHAT ARE YOU HOPES AND AMBITIONS AS A CHEF?
I would like, one day, to own my own sushi bar or restaurant where, irrespective of religion, race or age, people would come to enjoy my food.
WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF THAT PEOPLE ARE NOT LIKELY TO KNOW?
I am a huge fan of Kaizer Chiefs. I am very religious. I love body building. I have a fear of snakes and I am actually quite a shy person.
WHO IS THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO MEET?
I met Olympic swimmer Chad le Clos. I would like to meet British chef Gordon Ramsay. He is a no-nonsense chef but highly talented and one of the top 10 chefs.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
Soccer, gyming and fine dining.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘VASTLY OVERRATED’?
WhatsApp, Facebook, money, branded clothing and politics.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRSING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID OF YOU?
That I am excellent at multi-tasking…and that I am quite a stunner. LOL.
THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR YEAR SO FAR?
Participating in the FBBI Body Building Competition.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN – AND WHAT MARKS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY?
I was born in Richards Bay. Birthdays usually invole going out with friends and partying hard.
ANY FEARS OR PHOBIAS?
I don’t like snakes. I am afraid of being bitten by a deadly one and knowing that I could die if I don’t get help quickly.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING YOU CAN COOK AND WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY COOKING?
I cook seafood well. And I enjoy cooking meat… any which way.
WHAT TRAITS DO YOU DISLIKE IN OTHERS?
Dishonesty and jealousy.
IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY FIVE THINGS FROM FIVE DIFFERENT PEOPLE WHAT AND WHO WOULD THEY BE?
I’d like my mom’s patience, Chris Brown’s dance abilities, Joyce Meyer’s religious conviction, Trevor Noah’s comedy skills and Christiano Ronaldo’s soccer talent.
WHAT IS THE WORST TROUBLE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN?
It was when I was robbed at Gateway for my cellphone by a knife-wielding, crazy robber.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED – AND WHO GAVE IT?
Believe in yourself and you will be unstoppable. My girlfriend told me that.
WHAT THINGS DO YOU MOST MISS FROM CHILDHOOD?
Fishing in a river with school mates.
IF YOU COULD INVITE ANY FIVE PEOPLE TO DINNER WHO WOULD THEY?
Rapper Nicki Minaj (I love her), my body-building mentor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nigella Lawson (I love her cooking style), my religious leader The Pope, and the general manager of Sibaya Casino, Melville Vogel, because of his leadership skills.
THE BEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER HAD?
I was told I prepared food with love.