‘It’s Like I’m Going Back To My Family’: Sashi Cheliah Returns To MasterChef Fans & Faves

Several years after winning MasterChef Australia Season 10, Sashi is back in the kitchen that changed his life.

In 2018, Sashi Cheliah wowed the judges and won the coveted title of MasterChef when he became the winner of Season 10. Now, several years later, Sashi has returned to hopefully prove it was no fluke.

Since his win, Sashi opened a pop-up restaurant venue in Melbourne, Gaza by Sashi, which later evolved into Gaja, his restaurant in Adelaide. So, when the call came to return to the MasterChef kitchen, Sashi had to take some time to work out if he could leave his businesses he set up after his initial win.

“I took some time to say yes,” he told 10 play over the phone, “once I knew my family were all good, and good form e to go I said ok, let’s give it a crack!

“MasterChef has always been very close to my heart,” Sashi continued, “it’s like I’m going back to my family. Any time they called I would go back.”

Sashi is not the only one in his house who knows what it’s like to walk through the doors of the MasterChef kitchen and face the judges after his son, Ryan, competed in Junior MasterChef Australia.

“He still cooks with me,” Sashi said, “he loves baking… he’s all about dessert. At least once a week, it’s like a family affair. Everybody in the house cooks together, it’s a family affair now.”

Despite being just one of three returning chefs who won their initial season, Sashi admitted that he felt a slight bit of added pressure, however being in the MasterChef kitchen had always been a learning experience for him, and that pressure was just going to be a learning curve.

This season, half of the contestants are returning for another shot behind the bench, while the other half are a handful of Australia’s best amateur chefs looking to take on the challenges, and compete against some of MasterChef’s finest faves.

“The new guys, I think they came in with a very open mind,” Sashi said. “They have seen us before, they know what they are coming into so they were well prepared. For the Faves, they have been in the kitchen before, but we were more nervous than the Fans!”

Having been in the kitchen before, the Favourites knew how stressful it can be. “Any small mistake can send you back home,” Sashi added. “We know it’s not an easy task, and we are putting ourselves again into the pressure.”

When asked if there were any challenges he was scared to face once again, Sashi laughed and said, “Pretty much everything”.

“Actually, I want to do as many cooks as possible,” he added. “The more you cook, the better you get and the more you learn. So, for me, I don’t want to avoid any cooking if possible, I want to cook a lot more.”

Having now immersed himself in the industry since leaving the MasterChef kitchen, Sashi said his approach to food, how he sees it, has changed significantly.

“Now I look at produce, how to maximise flavours, reduce wastage. I look at food with a very different perspective. Running a restaurant and a couple of other food businesses, these are the things I look into nowadays. It Is totally different for me.”

But his perspective on food isn’t the only thing that has changed, with Sashi noting that over the past two years the entire hospitality industry has completely changed, mostly due to COVID’s impact.

While a lot has changed, in both the wider industry and the world of MasterChef, Sashi said one thing still made coming back to the kitchen feel entirely familiar.

“It’s the people that’s more important,” he said. “With the Favourites, some of them I knew personally, some I didn’t, but I have new bonds with them.

“I built another new circle of friends now. It’s all about getting to know people, the experience of meeting new people, new cultures, new food. The very soul of MasterChef, that has never changed.”

MasterChef Australia Fans & Favourites premieres on Monday, 18 April at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 Play On Demand.