PETALING JAYA: When tragedy strikes unexpectedly, dreams shatter, leaving the future you once imagined in ruins. While some people lose hope, others rise above it.
Thirty-year-old Sureshwaran Raju is one of them.
Six years ago, while riding home from work on his motorbike, Sureshwaran’s life took a tragic turn — a road accident that robbed him of his left forearm.
Even worse, Sureshwaran, previously a chef in an upscale restaurant in KL, was left-handed. The accident not only stole his dominant forearm but also his most cherished culinary tool, the hand that gave life to his passion.
However, today he operates his own food stall, Roadhouse BBQ, established just a year ago at the Mango Tree Cafe hawker food court here.
FMT Lifestyle recently paid a visit to his stall, where he serves up mouth-watering barbecued chicken chops, lamb chops as well as chicken tikka. It’s all prepared from scratch and cooked by him.
“It was difficult, I won’t lie,” said Sureshwaran. “I relied heavily on my left hand to do everything, especially cooking.”
Over seven years ago, he graduated from culinary school, and secured a job at a restaurant serving Western food.
But the accident in 2017 devastated him and it wasn’t until five years later that he was able to pick up the pieces and return to his passion for cooking.
“It took a long time because I needed to build my confidence,” he shared. “It took a while to train myself to use my right hand, and get used to cooking with not just one hand, but my non-dominant one.”
Sureshwaran said his mother, Sooriakala Subramaniam, 55, along with his sisters Vithiah and Vinthia, help him run the business.
“My sisters serve the customers and handle the payments. My mother assists me at the grill. And my brother helps me out sometimes too when he comes back from work.
“So, I definitely can’t do any of this without my family,” he shared.
Sooriakala said her son has always loved cooking. “Since I can remember, whenever we asked him, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ he’d always say, ‘I want to cook.'”
Originally from Teluk Intan, Sooriakala said she is proud of her son. “I saw how he struggled in the years after the accident. So, I’m very happy that he has this stall now.”
Sureshwaran is not just a skilled chef; he’s strong-willed, having established the stall using his personal savings. “After the accident, I knew I still wanted to cook. Not once did I consider another job.”
He said that despite the accident depriving him of his left limb, he still felt fortunate that he is a chef above all else, as the skill has enabled him to work on his own terms.
“I prefer running my own business; I’m not bound by orders and I can rest when needed.”
Today Sureshwaran has a dedicated customer following all thanks to the genuinely delicious and budget-friendly food he serves. “I marinate the meat for close to 24 hours, that’s how it retains its juiciness.”
He also shared that perhaps his stall’s success is due to its distinctive offerings. “Not many hawker stalls serve Western barbecue food, and very rarely is it made by Indians.”
To ensure the superior taste, he uses high-quality ingredients and prepares everything from scratch – mushroom soup to black pepper sauce – all his own unique recipes.
Hailing from humble beginnings – his father is a retired gardener – Sureshwaran said he wasn’t after excessive profits. “I keep prices affordable, as most of those who come to eat here are from the B40 community.”
Although it’s a struggle to run his business with just one arm, Sureshwaran continues to hold onto his dreams.
“My goal is to open more stalls across the Klang Valley and turn Roadhouse BBQ into a franchise.”
Roadhouse BBQ at Mango Tree Cafe
36-3B, Jln PJS 5/2
46150 Petaling Jaya
Contact: 010-283 5861
Follow Roadhouse BBQ on Facebook.