PUCHONG: It has been six years since Rukentiran Rajarathanam lost his sight to glaucoma but that has not dampened his spirit or doused his love for cooking.
Rukentiran was all smiles and laughter when FMT visited the new business owner’s cosy little kitchen recently, located right above his family home.
The 33-year-old describes his love for good food and cooking as all-consuming and says he is willing to go to great lengths to satisfy his cravings.
“I used to travel to different states and back just to get a good bowl of curry mee or the best durians,” he shares.
He also gushes about his love of cooking. “I started cooking as a hobby when I was younger. I love to eat and try new recipes,” says Rukentiran.
All that changed however, when he lost his vision to an eye disease, and subsequently lost his job as a fibre optics splicer.
“I developed glaucoma at the age of 27 and because of that I lost my eyesight,” he says, his smile briefly disappearing.
Rukenthiran relates how devastated he felt at being unable to see or work and how he very much lost the will to live.
“My family is my inspiration. They keep me going,” he says, admitting it was a daily struggle to pluck himself out of his sadness and despair.
However, he eventually mustered the courage to move on with his life for the sake of his loving family.
He threw himself into the one thing he was truly passionate about, cooking. So what if he was blind? He was determined to make it work.
But he had to start from scratch, relearning basic knife skills and even how to boil water.
“I attended a course that taught me how to handle the tools needed while cooking, like the knives and the pans.
“It was very difficult to relearn everything, and I did get hurt a few times, but it helped me to learn how to cook again,” Rukentiran recalls of the process.
After much thought, this gutsy man decided to turn his passion for cooking into a full-fledged business. He wasn’t going to let his blindness stand in the way of his dreams to make something of himself.
So, he started the Blind Chefs Kitchen in mid-July and says there’s no looking back now.
As head chef, he’s got his hands full right now, cooking as well as training the others in his team about the basics of running a business, and helping out in the kitchen.
Like their head chef, two of the men, Moagan Danapal, 21, and Murugan Kumar, 27, are also blind. However, unlike Rukentiran, both were born blind.
The fourth member of their team, Saravanan Krishnan, 43, is not visually impaired. “He is the two eyes for our eight pairs of eyes” jokes Rukentiran.
FMT got the chance to watch Rukentiran in action as he prepared an order for one of his customers.
In the kitchen, he not only navigates by his sense of touch but also uses his sense of hearing, taste and smell to determine whether ingredients are fresh and cooked to the right consistency and flavour.
“I use my palm to feel the heat, it helps me to adjust the flame accordingly,” he explains.
“The sound of the water sizzling in the pan also helps me determine if the food is cooked,” he explains.
Before he begins the actual process of cooking a dish, all the ingredients and cooking utensils are laid out on the table so he can familiarise himself with it.
This helps minimise mishaps in the kitchen like throwing a wrong ingredient into the pot and spoiling the dish.
“If someone changes the layout it could turn into a disaster,” he laughs.
“I do have plans to expand in the future and open a Blind Chefs Bakery,” he says, wanting to put his baking skills to good use as well.
As unique as this food business already is, being headed by a blind chef, Rukentiran felt they still needed that something extra to stand out from the rest.
So, he decided to incorporate his adventurous spirit into his love for cooking by specialising in exotic food.
“We cook wild boar, rabbit, ostrich and even monitor lizard,” Rukentiran says excitedly. “We wanted to be rare chefs that make rare food.”
Blind Chefs Kitchen is currently open for self-pick up and deliveries from Tuesday to Sunday, with their exquisite wild boar biryani served as a special every Friday.
If you’re feeling a little adventurous and craving something exotic for lunch or dinner, visit Blind Chefs Kitchen’s Facebook page to place an order.