It’s not every day that you hear a MasterChef Australia winner tell you their comfort food is sambar. Or that he likes cooking to 1980s Illaiyaraja music in the kitchen.
But beyond the resonance of South Indian sentiments, if you followed Season 10 of the show last year, then you already know that almost everything about Indian-origin contestant Sashi Cheliyah has been unexpected from the get-go.
For starters, this 40-year-old contestant was involved in special ops as part of the Singapore police, before later moving to Adelaide as a prison guard.
Sashi who took home the trophy last year was in Mumbai earlier this week to judge the Hafele Supermom Contest 2019 and is making a stopover in Chennai this weekend.
We caught up with him on life post-MasterChef, his passion to give ex-convicts a second chance by roping them into the kitchen and a new cookbook in the pipeline.
How much has your life changed since MasterChef?
Ever since I became MasterChef (in 2018), a lot of things have changed. It’s an honour to receive such a prestigious title.
Now everything revolves around food and I’m able to pursue a career that gives me more opportunities to understand different cultures and cuisines from around the world.
Is there a fun dish you like to whip up together, while your wife puts her feet up?
Most weekends, especially on Saturdays, my kids and I love making pancakes for breakfast and that is something the boys can do themselves now.
We hear that it’s been a long-standing dream of yours to hire ex-convicts – is that a model of restaurant that we will see from you soon?
I have been in contact with some organisations to work on this project, it will be happening in Gaja by Sashi but it’s not fully operated by them, they will be part of my team.
What are some lessons in the kitchen that can have help one handle real-life pressure tests?
You should always expect the unexpected, and I feel it’s always good to be prepared for unexpected situations during a cook.
Finishing my cookbook by the end of this year!