The little chef

Nihal Raj aka Kicha’s YouTube channel shows him rustle up dishes with the flair of a master chef

May 20, 2016 04:04 pm | Updated September 12, 2016 07:28 pm IST



A little boy in a kiddie apron and an oversized home chef’s hat teaches how to make Mickey Mouse mango ice cream. Nihal Raj aka Kicha works to his rhythm, mumbling ‘awesome’ and ‘wow’ as he whips cream and is wonderstruck by the gadget in his hand, a blender. He talks in English and briefly switching over to ‘ek, do, teen…’ ice cream done, he signs off asking folks to watch Kichatube HD. The Youtube channel is for kids interested in cooking. Recently Facebook acquired rights for the Mickey Mouse Mango ice cream video and paid young Kicha, all of six, US $ 2000.

The story begins with Kicha making popsicle as a five-year-old. Nihal was ‘helping’ his mother, a home-baker in the kitchen. As he set down to work, his advertising professional father, Rajagopal V. Krishnan, started filming on his mobile phone. The result, with Kicha giving instructions on how to make the popsicle, impressed his father. “I shared the video on Facebook and it was hugely appreciated.” A Eureka moment followed and Rajagopal created a Youtube channel, Kichatube HD and uploaded the video on it.

The channel was started in January 2015 and only 12-odd videos had been uploaded. And then, last week everything changed when Rajagopal got a mail from a US-based company enquiring about a video uploaded on the channel. “At the time I didn’t know, but the next day, when I got a mail I realised that it was from a casting company for Facebook,” says Rajagopal. Although Facebook has acquired the rights, they are non-exclusive, allowing Kichatube continued use of the video.

Kicha’s Youtube channel was inspired by Evantube by a US-based young boy Evan whose unboxing videos are popular. Unboxing, in this case, is toy reviews. Rajagopal and Kicha gave this a shot, finding the boy uninterested, Rajagopal didn’t pursue it. That’s when the recording of the popsicle video happened.

Kicha, his father says, has always been interested in food and cooking. Ruby, Rajagopal’s wife and Kicha’s mother, is a home baker and the boy, often, hangs around his mother while she’s in the kitchen or baking. Kicha’s recipes are provided by Ruby, who keeps them simple and kid-friendly. “For our wedding anniversary, Kicha, along with Chef JP of Le Meridien, made us a pizza. And for his birthday we had a ‘chef/kitchen’ themed party at Kochi Marriott. He is curious about food and any time we eat out, he’d go into the kitchen to meet the chef with his questions,” Rajagopal says.

He stresses the fact that the videos are shot as and when Kicha feels like, which explains the 12 or so videos in more than a year. Recipes his mother may provide, other than that he works on the fly, script-free and improvising as he goes. Kicha goes into Class I at Choice School this year, he has an older sister.

“He is different from kids his age. Even this Facebook thing, he knows what is happening but he isn’t overexcited,” says Rajagopal. With a lakh plus rupees in his account, all Kicha has asked his father is for a Paytm account so that he can shop online without bothering his father.

As a parent, Rajagopal says his takeaway from the whole experience is something he’d like to share with parents out there. “We want our kids to play football or cricket or painting and enrol them in coaching classes too. It’d be so much better to take into consideration the child’s interests before thrusting him or her into something they might not enjoy.”

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