Few reality cooking shows have engrossed viewers quite like MasterChef Australia, which features talented home cooks pitting their skills against each other.
And the finale of last night’s 10th season proved the show still has the goods.
In what turned out to be a tense but ultimately one-sided final, Singapore-born contestant Sashi Cheliah nabbed the title of MasterChef Australia and AUD250,000 (RM749,000), beating out fellow finalist Ben Borsht. Sashi scored the highest points in the show’s history, netting a total of 93 out of a possible 100 points against Borsht’s 77 points.
Born in Singapore, Sashi grew up surrounded by good food – his mother owned a café and his aunts were also really good cooks, so his fondest memories were of family members cooking up a storm. As an adult, Sashi spent a decade with the Singapore police force before migrating to Australia, moving first to Melbourne and then to Adelaide where he now works as a prison officer and lives with his wife and two sons. The move also inspired an increased desire to cook, and in an interview with The Straits Times, Sashi said he only seriously started cooking when he moved to Australia.
Sashi was inspired to apply for the 10th season of MasterChef Australia following the death of his aunt, Letchmi. “She taught me how to cook … it was more for her I did the show,” he said in an interview with www.perthnow.com.au.
On MasterChef Australia, Sashi was a strong contender from the get-go and even achieved the remarkable feat of a double immunity pin, the only contestant in the history of the show to have attained hard-fought immunity not once, but twice!
Some of the dishes he made on the show were show-stoppers like chicken lemak and Malaysian pineapple tart with lime ice cream, both of which helped propel him to the finals of the show.
In yesterday’s finals, Sashi once again impressed judges George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan when he shot to the lead with an impressive 57 points out of 60 for his starter of prawn sambal (which netted him three perfect 10s) and a main dish of fish curry with cumin rice. This gave him a whopping 16-point lead over Borsht who flailed in the challenge and scored 41 points.
“I just made sure there was enough flavour in my food to wow the judges. That’s all I did,” said Sashi in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald.
But the toughest part of the night hadn’t even started yet. Both finalists were charged with recreating Heston Blumenthal’s monumental Counting Sheep dessert, a complicated looking ensemble that resembled a pillow suspended in air, and which used no less than 80 ingredients and 19 different techniques.
Given the complexity of the dish, Sashi and Borsht ended up making mistakes but recovered, with both scoring 36 out of a possible 40 points, and Sashi claiming victory with a total of 93 points.
At 39, Sashi is officially the oldest winner of MasterChef Australia and follows in the footsteps of previous winners like Julie Goodwin, Adam Liaw and last season’s Malaysian-born winner Diana Chan.
While he has indicated that his dream is to open a restaurant serving Indian and South-East Asian cuisine, he is also open to other opportunities.
“It’s giving me a stepping stone to go into the food world. I’m still looking at options… but I’m going to be trying a lot of things to see what suits me,” he said to Fairfax Media.
MasterChef Australia S10 airs on Lifetime (Astro Ch 709) Mondays to Fridays at 8pm.