2018 Masterchef winner, Sashi Cheliah, recently launched his flagship restaurant on Pirie Street last week, which is now officially open to the public.
Gaja by Sashi will showcase a mix of Asian inspired dishes, sharing plates, as well as Asian inspired cocktails, which will be reminiscent of Sashi’s methodical approach of carefully curating a delicious blend of Indian, Chinese and Malaysian food.
The menu at the Pirie street restaurant has been created alongside Head Chef, Miles Davis, who was previously from Hotel Longtime, and will feature exclusively brand new dishes that touch on inspirations from Sashi’s time on Masterchef.
The menu will also feature Sashi’s ‘Cari Vit’ or Lychee duck curry, which was an award-winning dish on the show.
At the heart of the restaurant is a large mural of an elephant (Gaja), which personifies a number of positive attributes including abundance, fertility and richness, boldness and strength, and wisdom and royalty. The mural also incorporates a reference to all the countries that will feature on Sashi’s menu.
At the restaurant launch, guests were welcomed with a traditional dance that helped bless the restaurant for a successful launch. Sashi then thanked everyone for their guidance, love and support in opening up the restaurant.
“From where we started and what we have achieved today, thank you.”
“I had a vision before going onto Masterchef, that I wanted to have a small café in Adelaide. … After winning the competition, my whole idea changed from a café and it has brought me to this; a full pledged restaurant with a full bar,” Sashi said.
At the launch, guests were given a range of food samples to showcase what the new menu will have on offer, such as Sticky pork and prawn meatballs with pineapple, nuts and coriander; Satay Beef; Potato Fritters with tomato and peas; Chicken Pakora; and Pandan Custard Tarts.
All the food platters were gone within minutes; with many guests enjoying the food so much, they vowed to come back once Sashi’s restaurant officially opened to the public.
Born in Singapore, Sashi’s passion for food came early in life by watching his mother and aunties cooking in their café.
“Whenever they cooked, I was always in the kitchen watching.”
“Food is a huge part of my culture and there’s always plenty of food to prepare at every cultural festival or celebration. I can still remember being in the kitchen at ten-years-old, watching my mother cook and smelling the spicy aromas,” Sashi said.
Sashi originally worked for 12 years in the Star Unit of the Singaporean Police Force, where he trained in tactics, rescue operations, counter terrorism, kidnappings, and high-profile protection in the riot police.
In 2012, Sashi then moved to Adelaide and worked as a prison guard, which then gave him more time to cook for his family, and rekindle his passion for the craft. That was when he signed up for Masterchef after seeing an advert on Facebook.
Even though Sashi is now following his dreams, he still holds a special place in his heart for his old line of work. He wishes to work alongside ex-prisoners to provide assistance, rehabilitation and opportunities to obtain employment in the food industry.
And with Gaja by Sashi, he is making that dream a reality; dedicating one section of the restaurant for rehabilitation.
“We are working towards the direction we have promised. … We now have someone from corrections working with us. This is something very close to my heart,” Sashi said.
Through his new restaurant; Sashi will be able to showcase his love and passion for food, all while sharing his flavoursome recipes with the people of Adelaide.
Sashi has also started his own product line in Woolworths and is currently working on a cookbook.
It would seem that Masterchef was only the beginning for Sashi.
Gaja by Sashi is located on Pirie Street and is now open for lunch and dinner, from Monday through to Saturday.
Words by Cyndal King
WHERE: 4/86 Pirie St, Adelaide