An 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.
Melbourne Chef Daman Shrivastav, what follows is his life put together with his determination and faith. Digging 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. 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.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. His humble gesture is so appreciated by the countless people who have been fed by him. The 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.
Now in lockdown he has been inspired to create a cooking show called DDs Kitchen alongside his 8 year old daughter, Diya to inspire kids and families in lockdown to cook and also to teach his daughter about helping those in need.
The food from the cooking show is shipped by this daddy and daughter duo three times a week from their home to help Melbourne’s forgotten international students and the homeless during this Melbourne in COVID lockdown.
DD’s Kitchen has now become a social enterprise So, here is the story behind the man, because you have to know the history.
Born in Delhi, Daman grew up in India 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 Westminster College in 1985, where a well-known chef Jamie Oliver studied to name a few.
In 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 epicenter 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 Longlines watch from his private collection with the king’s signature embossed on the dial. like his first modern Indian French-influenced restaurant on Hoddle in Melbourne, Bay Leaves on Hoddle, to his teaching at the Box Hill Institute of 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 many families 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. Daman believes that 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. … What made him cook for others… and… What does he like to eat? He loves 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, International Students and anyone is welcome to eat – of course, absolutely free.
Despite her young age, Diya Shrivastav is a force to be reckoned with! Having inherited her father’s passion for cooking and for helping others this young lady has proved that she is a quick learner during lockdown. Diya has assisted her Daddy to provide up to 500 meals a week to people in need in their hometown of Melbourne. In her spare time she loves to practice piano, Bharatanatyam (Indian dance), ride horses and shoot some hoops on the basketball court! She loves animals and is so excited to be working with her Daddy in DDs Kitchen!