CTExclusive: Chef Sashi Cheliah Talks Food To Us; Shares Fav Dish And Veggie He Finds Overrated

by Sanjana Shenoy
CTExclusive: Chef Sashi Cheliah Talks Food To Us; Shares Fav Dish And Veggie He Finds Overrated

Sashi Cheliah — the winner of MasterChef Australia Season 10 ( in 2018) — is a household name in Australia, India and across the world. For Indians, it was a moment of pride, when the Indian-origin chef, nicknamed ‘Flavour King’ in the MasterChef kitchen, lifted the coveted trophy, representing a community, perhaps a nation. Today the prison guard from Singapore is a successful restaurateur with Gaja in Australia and Pandan Club in Chennai, celebrating fusion cooking, especially Peranakan cuisine at its best.

During his two-day pop-up at Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel, I, Sanjana Shenoy, Sub-Editor at Curly Tales, and most importantly,  a massive MasterChef Australia fan interviewed Sashi Cheliah. The Chef spilt the beans about his MasterChef learnings, a vegetable he finds “overrated” and his food recommendations in Bengaluru.

Hello Chef Sashi! I’m having a massive fan moment here! I have followed your journey on MasterChef Australia and rooted for you on the show. 

*Breaks into laughter as he leans forward to shake my hand*  Thank you so much! Have you seen the latest MasterChef Australia episode, the team challenge one?

Of course, I have! It was nice to see you mentoring a team. 

Yes, I keep going on the show. It’s a wonderful experience.


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A post shared by Sashi Cheliah (@sashicheliah)

On that note, what were some of your major learnings from MasterChef Australia, that you have incorporated into your restaurants?

MasterChef Australia is a global platform, I would say. Because it has a very big bridge globally. So winning the competition, I was able to achieve what an established restaurant would achieve in 5 to 6 years.

I was able to achieve this in a year. So it gives me that exposure, a bit of an express ticket. 

But there was a lot to learn in that one year. It was not an easy task because hospitality is so different.

When it comes to the learnings, I will say the creativity side of it, the risk factor. Because the show is all about being creative, taking risks and staying true to yourself and your flavours.

I like to give flavourful food with a very beautifully plated dish. For me, flavour is very important.

We know you have a massive sweet tooth, so which Indian sweets do you like to eat? 

The kitchen here, (Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel) has a very good Indian sweet section. I told them to make Mysore Pak today. * Laughs wholeheartedly, unleashing a child-like enthusiasm* 

I love a very good Mysore Pak. Even Motichoor Laddoo.

I like halwa too —the dark, wheat halva (indicating Tirunelveli Halwa). I love that!  I have not travelled out for that.

I think after talking to you, I think I should make a trip. A sweet trip! But my wife will hate me for that. *laughs sheepishly*  She controls my diet!

sashi cheliah
Picture Credits: Press Release

Is there any particular place you’d recommend for Mysore Pak? 

A; I went to Mysore to have Mysore Pak. A friend of mine who lives there brought us there and told us, “It’s the oldest original Mysore Pak“. It (Guru Sweet Mart) was on a busy street with a bus station and everything. And it was amazing! It was greasy, nice and soft. It was good!

Any ingredient or vegetable which you personally don’t like? 

A: I don’t really enjoy vegetables. I’m a bit of a carnivore. I love my meat. But after coming into the industry, I started appreciating vegetables a lot more. 

But for some reason, asparagus is too overrated, especially in India. It is considered a premium vegetable in India. But it’s not! It’s a vegetable, nothing premium abt it. It’s nice but I don’t want to classify any particular vegetable as premium.

A vegetable is a vegetable, why must u call it a premium vegetable?

What’s your go-to comfort dish that you can eat any time of the day?

A: For Indian cuisine, I love sambhar. Sambhar is my comfort food, my go-to. Any time going back…with nice warm rice, with sambhar and vegetables and some meat, that is my comfort. But if I’m going back home to Singapore, I like to eat good Char Kway Teow noodles. 

At every aunty’s house, I have a speciality. If I go to my aunty Mani’s home, I tell her to make Keerai Curry. It’s a Tamilian dish of spinach and lentil, mashed together. 


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A post shared by Sashi Cheliah (@sashicheliah)

Now that you’re here in Bangalore, did you visit any restaurants in the city? 

We came in one day before this pop-up, just to go out and try new dishes. I went to Farmlore, a beautiful place with beautiful food. I really enjoyed what the chefs are trying to do over there. I’m very proud of what they have done. Very nicely done-up place.

Then, I went to Leela Palace, to a bar. There’s one hidden bar, a speakeasy bar (ZLB 23). Beautiful, nice place! 

I went to LUPA. Very nice ambience!

I saw your Instagram story at Vidyarthi Bhavan…

Yes, Vidyarthi Bhavan!

*At this time, we’re interrupted to wrap up the interview, so, Sashi Cheliah can kick-start the event*

*As Sashi walks away, he turns back and quickly tells me with a smile,*

Only dosa is good at Vidyarthi Bhavan, everything else is… *scrunches his face and gestures a hand movement, that could mean okayish*

Sashi Cheliah’s Peranakan Cuisine Pop-Up At Sheraton Bengaluru


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A post shared by Sanjana Shenoy (@sanjanashenoy2411)

Post the interview, Sashi Cheliah introduced us diners, to the world of Peranakan cuisine. A  5-course degustation of his signatures with a modern touch like Kueh Pie Tee (Peranakan Pani Puri), Chili Lobster Roll (my favourite of the evening),  Bun Roti with Black Nut Lamb and Sinfully Chocolate ( dark chocolate mousse, sesame ice cream with frozen dried Mandarin) were served, paired with the finest wines of the evening.

What does the future look like for the globally acclaimed Chef? He definitely is planning something but hasn’t let us in on it yet. Curly Tales can’t wait for it. For now, he is basking in the success of the Pandan Club club pop-up in Bengaluru.

Cover Image Courtesy: @sashicheliah/ Instagram