This chef wants to cook for Aamir and Kamal
Usually, showbiz names rule social media, but for now, Indian-origin, Singapore-born Sashi Cheliah is the man at the top, thanks to his historic score — 93 out of 100 — and win at MasterChef Australia 2018 finale.
Cheliah, who works in law enforcement, defeated Aussie builder Ben Borsht to lift the title and a prize of AUS$250,000 (₹1.26 crore). In a chat with us, the super-excited champ talks about his journey, his love for Indian food, Kollywood and Bollywood. “It’s pretty massive everywhere right now, and I’m just enjoying whatever is happening so far. It’s a big win for me,” says Cheliah, who, it seems, was born for this moment — even though he didn’t know it then.
“Cooking, for me, started from home. When we were kids, my mom and aunt used to cook and the kids used to watch them prepare the delicious dishes,” he says. “Mom had a small café, so all the boys used to help her out in the café, too, but none of us were really interested in cooking, and each had their own career path in mind. Like, I chose policing. I was a police officer earlier and then became a prison officer when I came to Australia about six years ago.” That move sort of reshaped his destiny.
“When I moved to Australia (from Singapore), I really started to miss home-cooked food a lot,” says Cheliah, who has a strong India connect, with grandparents who lived in Coimbatore. “So I started cooking regularly at home, borrowing recipes from mom, my aunt, and some from YouTube. But I always made sure to modify the recipes to bring my own touch to them.”
These efforts got huge praise from friends and family, who all thought that his skill was meant for something greater than the family kitchen, that he should be a restaurateur. His wife being a big fan of MasterChef, last year Cheliah decided to take the plunge. “The rest, as they say, is history,” he laughs.
For now, he’ll be starting a pop-up in Melbourne that will have a mix of Indian and South East Asian food. His ambition is to open a restaurant staffed by ex-convicts, “giving them a second chance at a better life”.
And being an Indian, he’s naturally a movie buff. “I love Kollywood and Bollywood. Kamal Haasan and Aamir Khan are my favourites. If I get a chance to cook for them, I’d fly to India just for this. This would be everything! I haven’t got any opportunity to cook in India yet. But, come on, India! Call me!” beams Cheliah.
Sashi Cheliah wins MasterChef 2018 with a super score of 93; and (inset) celebrates the moment with his family