Company Name: SBS Hindi Radio
Journalist: Maushiqui Acharya
Description: From being a fruit-picker to heading Australian institute of technical chefs, meet Daman Shrivastav
It was during the gulf war, when Indian-origin Chef Daman Shrivastav who worked with a top-notch seven-star hotel in Baghdad then, had to flee to Jordan.
“I donated everything I had and left with merely five or six US dollars and reached Jordan by road,” Mr Shrivastav tells SBS Hindi.
Having worked with reputed, luxurious five-star and seven-star hotels in India, England, France and Iraq, it was a big setback for Mr Shrivastav, when he had to pick fruits in Amman for a living.
“However, I climbed up gradually. I started as a fruit-picker but later started my own restaurant in Amman,” he recalls.
Mr Shrivastav ran a successful business and a hotel venture which catered French food in Jordan before he migrated to Australia in 1995.
The struggle began all over again.
“But what helped me was I had a lot of hands-on experience. I had the experience of running a 92-member staff restaurant but I also knew how to do it myself. That’s how I began in Australia,” he says.
In two decades, Mr Shrivastav has worked at a couple of hotels in Melbourne and also as the chief Chef at the Victorian Parliament for corporate events.
“I later started teaching because I am keen to fill the gap between what was being taught at school and what the industry actually needs,” he says.
Currently, he teaches at Box Hill Institute of TAFE in Melbourne and was recently made the President of the Australian Institute of Technical Chefs (AITC).
“I am honoured to be the President of AITC. It is a body that differentiates regular cooks from technical Chefs who have the skills, attitude, knowledge and experience required to be a technical Chef,” he says.
Mr Shrivastav feels Indian community has immensely contributed to the food industry in Australia.
“So many young people from India work in the food industry in Australia. They are hard-working, eager to learn and some of them are also entrepreneurial in nature. I believe they have contributed a lot,” he says.
Mr Srivastav is also currently pursuing a PhD in hospitality.
Company Name: The Indian Weekly
Journalist: Nandita Chakraborty
Description: n extraordinary life of a chef – mapping through three continents, a war, surviving homelessness, and now – giving birth to a cooking show during a global pandemic with his daughter, Diya. It all started with a man who simply wanted to become a chef because of a dinner jacket and a bowtie.
sit down for an honest chat with Melbourne Chef Daman Shrivastav, what follows is his life put together with his determination and faith. I dig through the seeds of the society in which he surrendered himself to fate, and Daman comes to know that success can only survive if one knows never to abandon humility.
A crisp September evening in 2018, my publicist and friend, Aisling Brady and I took an Uber down to the northern suburbs of Melbourne. We were very excited to meet Abhijit Saha, winner of the ‘Best Chef of India’ at the Indian Restaurant Congress and judge of Indian MasterChef that evening.
We were invited by Melbourne Indian chef Daman Shrivastav 55, who threw an honorary party for Saha that evening. Of course, we were delighted to be there to be in the presence of such a prestigious chef but to be honest, being such a lover of good food – I was there to quench my gastronomic delights. We were greeted with welcome drinks to match with all the carefully prepared appetisers and the colossal kitchen which had been transformed into a piece of culinary art as the kitchen island had evolved into a vast sushi platter. A few hours later, the party moved into the backyard. It was a short trip via the kitchen, but I was happily indulging myself gobbling and drooling over the delicate salmon. Sooner rather than later, I was forced to join the others in the patio. For quite some time, I stood pinching myself, a smorgasbord of dumpukht biryani and butter chicken lay in front of us. “What a spread!” I whispered. Aisling and I looked at each other in disbelief. That was my first introduction to the man and the chef Daman Shrivastav in person, and not one I will easily forget.
Fast track two years- we are now all in the middle of a global pandemic; what didn’t change for the ‘chef ‘is his love for good food, and his continuing being a human that is a tad bit extraordinary. As for me, my hunger for a good story drove the writer in me to explore and discover new ideas, and I have spent my isolation cooking up a storm in the kitchen, pretending to be a chef! I say this because, during these times, we have read so many incredible stories, countless TikTok videos, endless cooking posts on social media and watched overnight as ordinary people have turned into heroes helping the community. So, this a tribute to a man who encompasses all of the above and everything that life has to offer without prejudice, who treats everyone equally and to him, simplicity is profound as he surrenders himself to the service of others. Every weekend, Daman packs 40 – 60 lunches for the homeless and struggling international students quietly from his kitchen at home. Daman is very reluctant to take any credit, yet he does this with no financial donations, and this humble gesture is so appreciated by the countless people who have been fed by him.
He tells me there are regulars who he feeds; they look forward to his menu that can be anything from chicken curry to a pasta dish and that he packs the diners to last for a couple of days. He is an intriguing character, and I found myself wanting to know more when I called him and asked for an impromptu chat.
So, here is the story behind the man, because if you are like me, you have to know the history.
Born in Delhi, Daman grew up in Munirka in 1981. He was just like any other Indian boy who wanted to be a doctor or an engineer just because their parents wanted that. But Daman had other plans, he wanted to join the hotel industry not because it was fancy and it would get him a ticket to see the world – he simply wanted to participate because of a dinner jacket and a bowtie!
His father was not happy with his son’s proposition at all; he said that a chef is a ‘khansamah’ translating to just a cook. So, like any good Indian son, Daman accepted his father’s order to finish his bachelor’s degree. He joined the evening classes at Shyamlal College to do his degree in arts, and in then in the morning, he would do his hotel management.
As a trainee, Daman started at the Imperial Hotel part of the hotel management industry release, and in 1983 it did not take him long to become a Commi 3 at The Oberoi Group of Hotels. In that same year, Oberoi bought a 7-star hotel in Baghdad, the infamous Al Rasheed.
Being ambitious, he opted for the graveyard shifts, so that he could not only learn to cook French cuisine but also the language. It did not take long for him to get promoted to Commi 2, and his thirst for ambition landed him in London’s Westminister College in 1985, where a well-known chef called, Jamie Oliver was his junior.
n London, he went on to work at the Savoy, Dorchester London Hotel, and Thistle group of hotels Ménage a Trois to name a few.
In 1989 after his mother passed away, he gave up his job at Maurya Sheraton as an Executive Sous Chef at the Pavilion only to return to Baghdad to work at Al Rasheed as an executive chef. In 1990, everything changed with the onset of the Gulf war. People were leaving Iraq in droves; even the Oberoi Group of hotels had pulled the plug on its hotels in the country.
Daman ditched the idea of returning home and stayed in Iraq, not knowing at all that Al Rasheed would soon become the epicentre for all the journalists reporting for that region with the eyes of the world upon them. Little did we know that behind that hotel wall, Daman fed all these journalists, cooking tasty food to cheer them up and helping to keep them alive as they lived through another day in that horrible war. It was a small community within those doors where they ate, hugged, and cried together. Daman also made small parcels of the leftovers to deliver food to the Iraqi people driven into hiding by the regime.
During these times, he not only helped Mother Teresa to build churches in Baghdad but fed them with his glorious food. In 1991 after the Gulf war had finished, Daman travelled to Amman (Jordan) with a Syrian diplomat. With no money or food, Daman decided to work as a labourer in an orange farm, little did he know his life was about to change again – the owner of the farm was the cousin of King Hussain.
When he found out about Daman working initially as a chef, the owner revealed to him his plan to open a French Restaurant. Daman was asked to cook up a nine-course meal, and the rest was history giving birth to La Coquette after six months. It became so popular that King Hussain himself was a frequent guest.
Charmed by Daman’s food, King Hussain presented a Longines watch from his private collection with the king’s signature embossed on the dial. Amused, I whisper, “What a life!” to that Daman giggled on the other side of the phone.
I look back at the chef’s history, and I could write a book. There is so much more to write in this story, like his first modern Indian French-influenced restaurant on Hoddle in Melbourne, Bay Leaves, to his teaching at the Box Hill TAFE.
Currently, he is on his journey to finish his PhD. In January this year, he travelled to Europe with a scholarship – fellowship awarded to him from the Department of Education to report on best practices in education for use in Australia.
These days he has started his own YouTube channel with his young daughter Diya which I follow religiously!
Apparently, during the lockdown, home-schooling little Diya lacked fun, and being a creative chef, his one idea led to the other finally giving birth to the cooking show. They appropriately called ‘The Dad and Daughter Cooking Show,’ indeed raising the bar for all the dads out there. I think the best gift for any parent to give to a child is the power of love and humility- Daman does that beautifully through his cooking. You can also follow snippets of this show on Instagram.
Finally, I was burning to ask him two final questions during our chat… What made him cook for others… and… What does he like to eat? He simply tells me it is his wife Indika’s daal. As for his selfless cooking for others, it was the breakup of his first marriage that forced him to sleep on park benches in Kew, and so it was facing homelessness and fighting hunger with anger that brought out a unique calmness in his life. He wants to open food trucks for charity across Melbourne, and to continue feeding the homeless and anyone is welcome to eat – of course, absolutely free.
I conclude this extraordinary journey of a humble chef with a quote by Hemingway.” The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
By Nandita Chakraborty
Website link: https://www.theindianweekly.com.au/a-humble-chef/
Company Name: SBS Hindi
Description: Flavours of Multicuturalism with celebrity chef Daman Shrivastav
Celebrity chef and Daman Shrivastav along with 14 other celebrity chefs will cook up amazing multicultural dishes to raise funds for the school Chaplin and to connect, to share and to grow with the local community of Doncaster Hill in Melbourne. He along with the others will be cooking for the fundraising initiative of “Cooking with charity” founded by Jeffrey Tan.So what Indian delicacy is Daman cooking up? Let’s find out…
Daman Shrivastav is the last word in the hospitality industry and along with 15 celebrity chefs of different cultures of Melbourne will be sharing his creations with public to on 28th of July from 11-3pm at Doncaster Church of Christ. There will be 15 marquees where all chefs will be holding cooking demonstrations and money raised from selling the food will be utilised as funds for the school Chaplin. Daman says, “We are expecting around 1000 people at this event.”
On being asked what Indian delicacy Daman will cook, he says, “I am cooking around 500 portions of Chicken Biriyani and Raita with my wife Indika and my 6-year daughter Diya who is helping me in preparation and serving.I want my young daughter to learn the value of helping towards good causes.” All the ingredients are being donated by his own family.
On being asked about his motivation to participate in the cooking with charity event along with his family, Daman says, “As this event is to support the Christian community which aligns with my family, Indian as well as the Australian values that humanities have no religion and we are all one regardless of race, gender, nationalities or ethnic background, I decided to participate wholeheartedly.”
In his 33 years in the Hospitality from apprentice to journeyman to master Daman never stopped learning tricks of the trade neither has he ever stopped passing his knowledge to those who worked or studied with or under him. No wonder then that Daman regularly cooks and feeds the needy and homeless people in Melbourne.
Company Name: Box Hill Institute
Journalist: Box Hill Institute Marketing
Victorian TAFE Hospitality Students Employability Outcomes
Box Hill Institute patisserie teacher Daman Shrivastav recently released his International Specialised Skills Institute (ISS Institute) Fellowship report on the ongoing importance of hospitality education in Australia.
Daman received the Fellowship in 2019 and used it to ask employers and experienced chefs in Australia, the UK, Switzerland and France about any perceived knowledge gaps in recently graduated TAFE chefs. He wondered if the migration of more than 2,408 chefs to Australia since 2015 could be attributed to local chefs lacking in certain skills.
The findings of Daman’s report suggest that there is a gap between the expectations of industry professionals and the perceptions of VET educators regarding graduate capabilities, particularly the one training approach fits all, which does not reflect industry’s priorities. Consequently, Daman has provided specific recommendations to:
- Support the curricula development of and administration of VET in Australia
- Forge connections between industry and various stakeholders
- Adopt the best practices of state-of-the-art European institutes
- Address an identified skills gap
The International Specialised Skills Fellowships offer Australians the chance to travel overseas and undertake applied international research into a topic or issue they are passionate about and enhance their skills. The research is often used in education, training and across industries with the intention of generating actionable knowledge, finding solutions or developing innovative practice.
Company Name: International Specialised Skills Institute
Description: The Fellowship will aim to enhance the quality of training provided to hospitality professionals in the Victorian Technical and Further Education (TAFE) sector. It will do so by identifying competency gaps among recently graduated TAFE chefs as perceived by employers and experienced chefs and recommending changes to the relevant courses in the TAFE syllabus. Over 2408 chefs have migrated to Australia since 2015. Some of this demand may be attributed to the local chefs lacking requisite skills. The refreshed competency-driven curriculum informed by industry inputs will lead to superior employment outcomes for the TAFE graduates.
“I am so excited and grateful to be a Higher Education and Skills Group Fellowship recipient. I accept this fellowship with extreme honour. This fellowship will provide me an improved understanding and capabilities processed by the hospitality students in the Victorian TAFE system and the competencies and capabilities that the industry currently needs.”