Written by Ashwin Dewan and published on 25 May 2021.
Nihal Raj, popularly known as Little Chef Kicha, has been cooking up a storm in the kitchen, so much so that he got the attention of Ellen DeGeneres and Steve Harvey and appeared on their talk shows!
A regular kid, Kicha took to the limelight at a very young age. When he was eight years, he was invited to the popular Ellen DeGeneres Show where he showcased his skills at making puttu (steamed rice cakes layered with coconut).
He also appeared on Little Big Shots, a show hosted by Steve Harvey, another popular face on television. Further, Kicha has his own hit YouTube channel KichaTube HD that has almost 43.3K subscribers. The little chef is further credited with the creation of the Mickey Mouse mango ice cream video that went viral.
In a ParentCircle exclusive, Little Chef Kicha and his mother, Ruby Rajagopal, talk about his culinary journey, his favorite chef and his road to stardom.
Q. Your son is a YouTube sensation because of his culinary skills. How did his first cooking video get made and what was the dish?
A. His first video was of him making an ice popsicle. That, I feel started his culinary journey. From an early age, he would watch me bake and often ask if he could help. I started by giving him easy recipes that he could do without much difficulty.
One day, he said he wanted to make an ice popsicle and wanted his father to record the whole thing. Later, the video was uploaded on Facebook and gathered much attention. There has been no looking back since.
Q. Being a baker yourself, how did you encourage your son's interest in cooking?
A. Well, first of all, Nihal enjoys cooking a lot and is also interested in making videos. He has become a well-known YouTuber today. He started when he was four and I ensured that the recipes he worked on, did not involve fire or the use of sharp objects, like a knife. He mostly enjoys whipping up desserts and is comfortable using a hand blender.
I give him kid-friendly recipes to try. No cutting, chopping, or cooking over fire is allowed. If any of that is involved, he mentions in the video that his mother helped him out. The recipes I select are mostly baked goodies. Now, that he is older, he can use an induction cooker and work on recipes that involve frying as well.
Q. What was the inspiration or idea behind your son's YouTube channel KichaTube HD?
A. Kicha used to watch a lot of YouTube videos when he was three. He loved EvanTube HD where the child would unbox different toys and do reviews. Kicha wanted to do the same but there was not much scope in India for this kind of a concept. Also, Kicha was just three years old then and usually, would end up playing with the toy instead of unboxing it!
So, the next option was cooking. Like I mentioned earlier, he made an ice popsicle and posted it on Facebook with his father's help. He explained the process in a manner that people liked and subsequently asked his dad to help him out with the channel at the age of four years.
Q. Do you guys help with the video shoots of your son's YouTube channel?
A. It's teamwork. I select the recipe but he does it in his own style. He has gone abroad for a lot of shows. His sister handles the PR aspect while his father shoots his videos. The whole family is involved together.
Q. Tell us more about the Mickey Mouse mango ice cream?
A. When Kicha was four, he made the video. Two years later, Facebook contacted us and wanted to acquire non-exclusive rights to the video and paid a sum of $2000 (Rs 1,45,963). Prior to that, sites like Buzzfeed had featured the video. But, after the Facebook incident, my son became a celebrity overnight. So, in my opinion, the ice cream video was the turning point in my son's life.
Q. Do you cook together as a family?
A. Being a professional baker, I take orders for different types of cakes. Sometimes, my son helps me in the kitchen. He takes care of aspects like peeling, baking and cutting, under my supervision.
Q. In a world filled with gender stereotypes, how does it feel to have your son dabbling in cooking and, the best part, excelling in it?
A. I am not gender-biased. Irrespective of gender, be it a girl or a boy interested in cooking, we should extend our full support and encourage them in their endeavor.
Q. Nihal, what it was like to be on The Ellen DeGeneres show?
A. It was a really good experience. I was excited when a limousine picked me up from the airport and dropped us at our hotel. I went sightseeing as well and visited Universal Studios. I was really looking forward to the show where I taught Ellen to make puttu and she seemed to really enjoy the whole process.
Q. Who is your favorite chef?
A. I look up to a lot of chefs both from India and abroad, but my personal favorite is Gordan Ramsay.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. When I grow up, I want to become an astronaut chef and cook delicious recipes that astronauts can eat in space.
Q. Any tips for other aspiring little chefs?
A. For all aspiring little chefs, I would like to say that it is never too late to dream the impossible. Do not give up and keep on trying until you succeed. Do what you love, and you will never have to face failure in life.
Little Kicha's story is an inspiration for children the world over. It is not just about a young boy who made it big with his culinary skills. His story is an example of how hard work and dedication will eventually lead to success in life. So, the next time your little one chooses to go off the beaten path or wants to do something different, be supportive and believe in your child.