What makes a popular Italian fine-dining restaurant that applies Asian street food on a balmy weekday evening? Zanotta was packed into a gurugram eating in the hands Chef Sashi Sheliaquite literally, as the 2018 MasterChef Australia winner knocked out Rendang duck, sambal, and sweet and sour yam in quick succession.
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The first chef of Indian origin to win Masterchef AustraliaCheliah travels through the kitchens of The Leela Hotels to nurture a special experience through seven Malaysian and Singapore-inspired dishes. existing. Sitting down for a quick chat, he revealed his plans in India – to open the Pandan Club in Chennai next month.
He says, “I hadn’t watched MasterChef before I applied to be a contestant, and my wife was watching it and forcing me to sign up. Only after being called up for a test did I spend hours each evening catching up on previous seasons after work.” His day job for two decades prior to his appearance on a cooking show was that of a policeman – he started working with the STAR (Special Tactics and Rescue) team in the Singapore Police, but after moving to Australia in 2011 with his family, he worked with the Melbourne Department of Justice. In Adelaide, where
He is 43 years old and now works for the Correctional Services or Prisons Department.
“I’ve always been interested in cooking and kitchen. From the age of 13-14, I was trying my hand at different dishes. Cooking was the only thing I could do well besides law enforcement,” he says.
After winning MasterChef, he went on to realize his dream of opening a “small window or café”. In 2019, he launched Gaja (Sanskrit for Elephant), his first restaurant in Adelaide, which serves dishes influenced by Indian, Singaporean and Malaysian classics, while remaining “real in taste and complete with flavour.” “My inspiration was born from my mum south india Cooking and growing up in Singapore to the wonderful flavors of Southeast Asia. It’s strong, bold, fragrant, and makes you feel alive.” Cheliah says that the first day he walked into the MasterChef kitchen, he thought it would be great to last 10 days. “But I kept winning challenges, and I kept hoping that I would be able to make it. Stay Longer.” After surviving the second round of eliminations he became confident in his journey on the show. “It took those six months to change my life. I was away from family, it was stressful and, trust me, it’s all unscripted – we don’t have time to prepare. It comes to that moment, things can go right or wrong.” In 2022, Cheliah returned to compete on the show’s 14th season, which featured a mix of returning contestants and new contestants. He was the sixth eliminated.
At Zanotta, Cheliah had 60 strangers, including a 10-year-old fan, in bondage to cooking it, customizing it to suit individual tastes and stopping for plenty of selfies in between. But despite being followed in the capital, Shelia says he chose Chennai as his first business Resturant The outpost for a reason: “Chennai has an authentic food culture, but it craves more options,” he says. The food at the 94-seat Pandan Club in T Nagar will be Peranakan and fairly traditional at that – with some frying stations, grills, and barbecues. “The Peranakans are people from China who adopted the Malay culture, so there is a strong Malaysian influence in their cooking. Even with many of the ingredients similar Indian Kitchenthey use a fair amount of fermentation, and the food has a strong umami flavor,” he says. Cheliah does not intend to open other franchises yet, opting instead to focus on building a clientele in Chennai first.” At MasterChef, I had to worry about all three. judges. Here, I need to please more people who are coming to dinner, so I’ll be in India a lot,” says the man whose other change since his career shift has been just as exciting — “I can’t tell, but I’m smiling a lot more than I was in former,” he says.
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