PETALING JAYA: Kalidevan Murugaya, better known on YouTube as Chef Dave, is a man on a mission. This 28-year-old is raising awareness of veganism among Malaysians.
Dave worked his way up at one of the country’s five-star hotels from commis (junior chef) to a management-level position.
Last year, he jumped ship for the opportunity to work as a chef on the Disney cruise line and travelled the world for a year. But a kitchen injury that required minor surgery forced Dave home.
While recovering, this curious cook stumbled across the topic of climate change and environmental issues online. A video showcasing animal cruelty in the egg and dairy industry left him traumatised.
He immediately made the decision to go vegan and make it his life’s purpose to fight against animal injustice and become a voice for the voiceless.
Unfortunately early this year, his stint as a chef on the Disney cruise line came to an end with the arrival of Covid-19.
The loss of his job was painful, but Dave chose to channel his passion by posting vegan recipes on his YouTube channel.
“I absolutely love food and cooking but I could not eat my favourite Malaysian foods anymore because most of the time the recipes would include dairy.
“So, I began tweaking our Malaysian favourites and making them vegan-friendly. The whole process was a one-man job. I would cook, shoot and edit the videos.”
Slowly, Dave’s hard work began to pay off. He noticed an influx of subscribers and viewers to his channel but, to his dismay, they were mostly foreigners.
Then, he had an epiphany on how to reach out to more Malaysians. He placed a laminated memo explaining his current situation on the doorsteps of everyone living in his condominium.
It was a spur-of-the-moment idea but it worked.
Overnight, he gained 10,000 subscribers and in the span of just three months, Dave has posted more than 40 Malaysian and Western recipes.
You name it and he’s made a vegan version of it. From vegan bak kut teh and vegan nasi lemak to roti canai and mouth-watering goodies such as vadai and muruku.
He recommends aspiring home cooks to try out his roti canai recipe.
What separates Dave’s channel from the rest is that he has placed his own special multilingual twist to it.
Each recipe has the ingredients written down in three languages — English, Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin — to cater to the country’s main language groups.
Dave’s literacy in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil has made him a hit among his viewers.
Currently, for his Malay viewers, Dave is working on a Ramadan special, posting delicious recipes for sahur, breaking fast and Hari Raya cookies.
Now, this vegan chef has no intention of returning to the hotel industry.
“Having this channel and being able to teach people about plant-based food has brought me a lot of joy and fulfilment. I have not monetised the channel yet because I do not want to scare away my subscribers, and the purpose of this channel is not to earn money but to create awareness of the environment.”
This creative chef is also working on veganising traditional local dishes to show his fellow Malaysians that being vegan is much easier than they think.
His channel, Chef Dave Vegan Journey currently has over 16,400 subscribers.
Follow him on his journey on his YouTube channel here and check out his recipes.