MasterChef Australia Winner Sashi Cheliah Shares How COVID Has Affected His Restaurant

sashi cheliah masterchef australia restaurant gaja by sashi gaja express

Since winning MasterChef Australia in 2018, things have been non-stop for Sashi Cheliah.

He’s got his own restaurant, Gaja by Sashi, which is located on Pirie Street in Adelaide, and has recently opened a takeaway version of his restaurant, called Gaja Express, which serves Indian, Malaysian and Singaporean-inspired lunches and protein bowls.

On the show, Cheliah explained that by cooking an eggplant curry from one of his menus, he was “putting [his] restaurant’s reputation at stake”.

“That dish is on the menu, and I’m cooking this on the competition,” he explained. “I need to nail it.”


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A post shared by GAJA by Sashi (@gajabysashiadl)

Cheliah said that “after winning the competition”, everything “changed” for him, and soon, the Sashi Cheliah brand will be “going global”, with plans to open “in China and India” currently in the works.

Of course, as anyone who works in hospitality can tell you, things have not been easy for restauranteurs over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Cheliah is no exception.

“These two years has been one of the toughest times for the hospitality industry,” he shared. “It has pushed me from [being] a cook to a business owner.”

In fact, it was the pandemic that prompted him to open Gaja Express.

Speaking to Broadsheet, Cheliah said that “as a restaurateur and business operator” he found that he had to “evolve with the times”.

He explained: “COVID has forced us to adapt and move in a different direction when it comes to hospitality … Instead of putting my eggs in one basket I’ve had to diversify and look at other opportunities.”


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A post shared by GAJA Express (@gajaexpress)

Prior to the pandemic and all of its restrictions on dining, Cheliah said that “people were still going for long lunches and could afford to go out and spend some time with their colleagues”.

As restrictions were lifted and people began to return to the office, though, Cheliah said that people were still hesitant to dine out for lunch.

“After COVID [restrictions] and working from home, I’d say 50% of the workforce is back, but they’re not going out to have lunch with their colleagues — it’s always grab and go,” he said. “That’s the norm at the moment.”

Now, Cheliah is back in the MasterChef Australia kitchen to compete on Fans and Favourites, and is hoping the experience will help him “get [his] creativity back”.

“The passion that I have for food, I feel there’s no limit,” he said. “I want myself to be put to the test.”

Even more than that, Cheliah said, succeeding in the competition will be a sign of “whether [he’s] still worthy of what [he’s] achieved so far”.

MasterChef Australia airs at 7.30pm Sunday-Thursdays, only on 10 and 10 Play on Demand.

Want more MasterChef Australia? Read here.

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