Driven by two loves

FROM helping his father cook at their family home in Varadoli, Ba, to representing Fiji at the Olympics.

That is how much Ba lad Shaneel Naidu’s life changed over the past few years.

The national football rep, who was part of the Fiji football side at the Rio Olympics last year, has managed to find a way to balance the two great loves of his life — cooking and playing football — to earn a steady income.

When he’s not representing Ba or the country on the field, he can be found in the kitchen at the Sigatoka-based Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort.

“I’ve been in the cooking industry since 2015. I started my studies at the University of the South Pacific and I did a Certificate III in commercial cookery,” the 22-year-old said.

“I did my practical at the Grand Pacific Hotel for six months and I went on to work as a commis chef at Bonefish on Denarau.

“Due to some sports commitments, I left the job and I went on to continue with my sports. After that I joined Outrigger.”

Shaneel started playing football when he was 10 years old and represented Fiji in the Under-20 Football World Cup in New Zealand.

Last year, he was part of the national team that went to the Rio Olympics. While it was difficult balancing both professions, Shaneel said he loved what he did.

“I loved cooking since primary school. My dad used to cook at home and I helped with things like cutting onions. I did home economics in high school and since then, it was my dream to become a chef.”

Joining the Outrigger team under the tutelage of executive chef Shailesh Naidu was an eye-opening experience for the youngster, who says he is inspired by his superior to excel in the culinary field.

“For me, I hope to follow in Chef Shailesh’s footsteps and be an executive chef.

“It’s my aim to win the Chef of the Year competition, do well and study overseas and bring more knowledge to the industry.

“I hope to continue with my sports career too.”

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