What does it take to be an Instagram chef?

Step into the world of home chefs who blend creativity, technology and flavour to create compelling meals and reels for thousands of dedicated followers

February 16, 2024 12:00 pm | Updated February 17, 2024 10:40 am IST

Home cooks Vijay Nischal, Sahini Banerjee, Afshan Khan, Aditya Kumar and Deepshikha Das

Home cooks Vijay Nischal, Sahini Banerjee, Afshan Khan, Aditya Kumar and Deepshikha Das

Step outside the usual kitchen setting and meet a new kind of cook — the Instagram chef. They do not have a culinary degree, but wielding smartphones as their utensil work towards whipping up a revolution on your phone screens, one tasty reel at a time.

Meet five home cooks who share how creativity, technology and flavour blend to shape an Instagram chef.

Vijay Nischal (@dadikirasoi01)

Vijay Nischal

Vijay Nischal

At the age of 85, Vijay Nischal, popularly known as dadi, has become an Instagram sensation with over a million followers in just three-and-a-half months. A retired teacher based in Delhi, Vijay’s grandson Krish Nischal, who enjoys making videos, encouraged her to cook for the camera. He plays a pivotal role in recording, editing, and scripting the quirky recipe videos — where the song selection and dadi grooving on them is always the cherry on top.

Along with her grandson, she credits the “age factor, her looks, and her determination to keep working hard” for her accomplishments. “The fact that I am fit at this age and ready to work inspires people and is most likely the reason people across the world have showered so much love,” says Vijay.

Growing up, she was inspired by his father and started cooking with him. “The kitchen became my happy place. I would experiment with ingredients every day... But I never thought that I would one day get famous because of it. When I turned 85, my grandson insisted that I showcase my skills on YouTube. I had never used social media before; I never imagined I would go viral,” says Vijay, who recently completed 1K subscribers on YouTube and received the silver play button.

While crafting reels, Vijay follows a simple recipe: each video’s start and end should always be unique. She helps her grandson with the script and records the voiceover. As the videos also show her in the frame, she admits that it is quite challenging at times. “It needs to look a certain way, and I often repeat steps for the perfect shot. When I am cooking for myself I don’t have to think about the camera but on Instagram, everything needs to look a certain way. It is annoying sometimes because we have to do retakes in case there is a mismatch with the script but the final edit makes it worth the effort.”

She uses an iPhone 11 for shooting and has made several changes, including adding bright kitchen lights and recently getting a tripod stand. “My grandson and I make a great team brainstorming recipes. Planning the video execution is a task in itself — we write introductions that need to be both creative and relatable to my followers... We shoot the recipes in the corner of the kitchen and sometimes light does not reach there. Despite recording during daytime we face lighting problems but we eventually figure it out.”

Chef’s tip: Think a little out of the box when it comes to the script and background music! If there is consistency in all your videos people will recognise it is you in the first few seconds.

Sahini Banerjee (@feashts)

Sahini Banerjee

Sahini Banerjee

Sahini Banerjee, a vibrant storyteller, weaves tales through food and visuals. Armed with an MSc in Biotech, she found her storytelling spark at 18, thanks to her father’s influence and a love for movies. Movies about food have been a huge inspiration for her. Particularly, the film The 100 Foot Journey, a story of an Indian family in France, inspired her to use videos to tell stories. “I am someone who pours my heart out about my feelings, my experiences in marriage, in academia, my upbringing and my financial condition. I think the only way to stand out, is to firmly stand as you,” says the Delhi-based cook.

Sahini’s storytelling is a labour of love. Every frame showcases her love for food. She also hosts two engaging series — one featuring discussions with her husband Sunny, and the other on lunchboxes, adding layers to her social media presence. Her videos are not merely visuals. Sahini, 30, pens her scripts, like tales, blending visuals and words, adding hidden gems and picture puzzles to make her videos special.

Depending on the recipe, it can take her anywhere from two-and-half hours to a whopping nine hours for a single reel. If it is an easy dish, she wraps it up in about two-and-half to three hours. But when she is diving into recipes from scratch, the clock ticks between seven and nine hours. And then editing takes another two-and-half to three hours for each video. When it comes to her food choices, Sahini prefers showcasing what she is currently eating or something new she has learned. As her videos show, she enjoys blending foreign techniques with Indian flavours.

Like many creators, Sahini is on a journey to be more consistent in her creative world. She finds inspiration in chefs like Instagram cook Natasha Gandhi, and Anahita Dhondy, a restaurant chef, who recently used millet in their recipes.

Sahini’s primary source of income is brand sponsorships on Instagram, which have played a huge role in her decision to go full-time with content creation. “I have been monetised on Facebook for six months now, I recently became a YouTube partner in December 2023 and I also earn a very very small chunk from Amazon Affiliates (₹1,200). I also have my blog which I am trying to grow and place advertisements on. The plan is to post consistently on all platforms so my earnings becomes consistent,” she adds.

Chef’s tip: Keep practising and improving your camera work. Visuals and the content of the stories are what keeps your audience connected to you, it is what makes them come back to your videos over and over again.

Afshan Khan (@chefshaan19)

Afshan Khan

Afshan Khan

With over 355K followers, Afshan’s cooking style is mostly desi. He sees content creation as a launchpad, a way to build a loyal audience long before his next big step. “I’m not a chef. I have no culinary degree. Skill is a different case. If you asked me what I want to do overall, I want to be a filmmaker. That is what I’ll be pursuing in the future,” he says.

After having done almost 200 videos, he has noticed that non-vegetarian recipes such as chicken lababdaar and dynamite chicken wings tend to perform exceptionally well on his page. However, he gets many requests from people for vegetarian dishes. Despite knowing that they might not attract as much attention, he acknowledges the importance of vegetarian recipes within his community and creates content to cater to their tastes too. “Surprisingly, there have been instances or likes on most cases where the recipes, which I think that there are just fillers and I don’t think they’re going to do as well end up doing the best, like in the vicinity of somewhere around 800K-1 million views.”

Comparing himself to professional chefs, Afshan says he knows they have a lot more training and expertise, but his planning helps him succeed. Sometimes he plans the night before; other times, he wakes up and thinks, “How can I make today’s recipe more exciting?” The 24-year-old uses an iPhone 12 Pro Max to record the recipes and it takes him almost four-and-a-half hours to produce one reel. At first, he juggled things with one hand but later got a tripod. To spruce up his videos, he even uses bedsheets for a prettier backdrop.

“I wake up, I think what to shoot, I get all the ingredients. I start cooking... I edit my videos, I go to the gym, I come back, I do the voiceover, do the final editing. By that time, it’s already nine and I upload it. So every video is fresh. Nothing is pre-recorded. So if I decide to go on vacation like I did, my channel suffers for a week and there is no engagement,” he explains.

While considering brand collaborations, Afshan does not just focus on the paycheck but also on the freedom to express his creativity. When brands approach him, they usually mention a set of guidelines for the reel. “If a script or any aspect feels too restrictive, and they insist on everything being done their way, I express that they might find other creators who better align with their vision.” 

Chef’s tip: Add a personal touch and make sure that you are posting at regular intervals. If a post does not do well, don’t get demoralised, instead remain dedicated and consistent.

Aditya Kumar (@adityacooks)

Aditya Kumar

Aditya Kumar

Meet Aditya Kumar, 33, from Samastipur, Bihar, a lecturer by profession, whose journey began in 2010 when he left home to study in Dehradun and missed home-cooked meals. Every day, he would dial his mother’s number, asking for her authentic recipes of daal pithi and other Bihari delicacies. That is when the idea of sharing his love for Bihari cuisine with the world struck him. “Bihari cuisine is so much more than litti chokha and I don’t think people realise that,” says Aditya, hoping that his page inspires people to explore more.

This path has been nothing short of incredible and fulfilling for Aditya. With a follower count of 108K, his videos are not just popular — they cross millions of views and he says celebrities including Sharada Sinha and Neetu Chandra have reached out to him praising him for the work he has been doing. Although having a full-time job sometimes makes it difficult for him to record, edit and post on the same day, Aditya continues to cater to his loyal Instagram fan base which loves the authenticity and simplicity of his videos.

Growing up surrounded by the aroma of traditional dishes like lauka jabar, Aditya believes that being a top chef is not just about degrees and finds inspiration in capturing the essence of homely dishes. In his videos, Aditya hopes to connect with people who, like him, cherish their cultural heritage, and wants everyone to feel that special bond to their roots. “It’s a one-person show. So I’m the one who sets up the camera, finds the perfect angles, records everything, and puts it all together,” says the Noida-based content creator.

So far, Aditya has done about five-six paid brand collaborations, including renowned names like Fortune India. He feels that these partnerships aren’t just about income; they are about making sure his followers can relate to and embrace the collaborations. “Maintaining the integrity and authenticity of my content is non-negotiable. After all, viewers love my videos just the way they are, and I intend to keep it that way,” he says.

Chef’s tip: Keep the video as raw as possible, the more authentic it looks, the more relatable people find it and you are more likely to get a good view count!

Deepshikha Das (@deepintospices)

Deepshikha Das

Deepshikha Das

Deepshikha embarked on her social media journey a year ago with a simple yet heartfelt intention — to share recipes close to her heart, inspired by her mother’s culinary wisdom and those she makes when she is in her “chef mood”. An MBA student, her content creation journey began on YouTube when she started posting breakfast videos. However, she later switched to Instagram during the Coronavirus lockdown.

“Before opening the Instagram page, I used to post food recipes on my YouTube channel as I loved making videos and clicking photos from a very young age,” she says. The 23-year-old scripts every step before filming. If an ingredient goes missing, it’s a pause in the action. Once the shoot wraps, she adds a voiceover and edits the video. From start to post, it’s a four to five-hour process!

Although she felt her earlier videos did not always meet the highest standards, it never discouraged her. Despite the challenges, she continues to find joy in the creative process of being a passionate home chef. She believes in savouring the cooking journey more than chasing flawlessness. “Cooking isn’t about rigid rules; everyone has their unique way. The ‘homemade’ factor on Instagram encourages authenticity, making cooking relatable for everyone,” she adds.

Armed with just her smartphone and a tripod, Deepshikha edits and posts the videos without any help from anyone else. “Earlier, I used the iPhone 6 model for shooting my videos. Now, I have upgraded to the iPhone 13. The video and audio capture quality is excellent on the phone, so I feel I don’t need any other extra equipment.”

Although she has not earned anything from Instagram yet, Deepshikha, with a following of over 33K, says that she has received collaboration requests but she is looking for a brand that she can relate to.

Chef’s tip: Shoot the videos early in the morning when the sunlight hits the kitchen. It will give your videos a better visual appeal.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.