From Streets of Chennai to a Top Chef in Toronto- Chef Sash Simpson

“There is no way this restaurant is closing. You have to fight for it.”

An orphan eating on streets to a top chef in Toronto,  life is an epitome of miracles. The 50-year-old chef living in Toronto couldn’t have imagined the life he had 4 decades ago in Chennai.

8-year-old Sash was living in a theatre in exchange for work and ate food out of garbage bins behind restaurants. He was persuaded by orphanage workers to come with them. Mr. Simpson said “It was perfect timing. Even a second later and they would have missed me.” Sandra Simpson, a lady from Toronto ran the orphanage at that time, adopted him. Mr. Sash says he doesn’t remember much of his childhood. Everything looks blur and fuzzy. He recalls having a family with two siblings but doesn’t know where they are.

Sandra took Sash to Toronto, where he started living with her family. Sandra’s family lived in a mansion in Forest Hill, a rich neighborhood in Toronto. Sash got his first job as a newspaper delivery boy at the age of 12.  He used the money to buy new clothes. At 14, he started working as a dishwasher in a nearby hotel.

Young Sash had no culinary training and never worked at any restaurant. He was rejected by North 44 twice. Then he made a deal that he would work for free for three months and see if they liked his work. They took him in after a week. Sash never forgot his roots living in India. His dishes are versatile with a mix of two different cultures.

Sash realized his dream and opened a restaurant in Toronto in 2019. His restaurant had all the luxurious elements. But the timing wasn’t so good. The pandemic struck his business months after he opened his new restaurant. Sash put everything he had into this restaurant. Research by OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation service has shown that the restaurant lost almost 80% of the reservation they had in 2019. The last eight months have been so stressful for Sash.

From eating out of garbage bins to feeding the rich in Canada, Sash sees the irony in it. But as always, he is focused on survival. He said “there is no way this restaurant is closing. You have to fight for it.”

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