When the then 4-year-old Kicha showed an interest in cooking, little did his mom know that in two years, the video of him making Mango Ice cream would be purchased by Facebook for 2000$, he would be the youngest Indian cook to be featured on Ellen DeGeneres and the Little Big Shots show featuring Steve Harvey, and would bag amazing honorary titles such as, ‘Pride of India by Seematti’, and awards such as ‘Tharang Social Media Award’ and the ‘Janam TV Achievement Award’.
Born Nihal Raj in a lovely neighbourhood of Kochi, Kicha is the son of advertising magnate Rajagopal Krishnan and Ruby Rajagopal a home baker. Showing excellent prowess at cooking since young, his mother says she can remember how it all started with Kicha hanging around the kitchen every time she cooked. “After 21 years of being an English lecturer I quit my job to take care of Kicha when I was pregnant with him. You see, Kicha was a late child. My daughter is already in college and so when I was carrying Kicha, we were worried about the intricacies of pregnancy so I left my career to start a new one as a home baker as I took care of Kicha. Even as a child he was always interested in eating and as soon as he could walk and talk, he would watch me cook or help me around the kitchen whenever I would let him. I don’t believe in that notion that only women cook and kitchen is their place. I wanted to encourage him to follow his passion and who knew it would become so big!” says Ruby.
It was Kicha’s idea to start the YouTube channel in his name with a handle called KichaTube. When Kicha asked his dad to film him making mango ice cream nobody knew the passionate rendition of the child’s cooking would become so popular across the world! Now Kicha has over 140 videos, 2 videos being uploaded every week, and has tried his hand at various cuisines albeit with none of the recipes being too difficult. Ruby explains, “I gave him a set of easy recipes to do; nothing he has to cut or could possibly burn his fingers from. It is mostly simple recipes he can try anytime with blending, crushing and easier processes he can try.”
When the family got a mail from a casting company asking for the rights of Mickey Mouse Mango Ice cream, little did they know the repercussions of it? Soon Facebook acquired the rights to the video and next thing they knew, they were asked to be on the Ellen Show! Talking about her eccentric son, Ruby quips, “We have no idea where he gets his charisma from! People around always ask how Kicha got to be so full of energy but we have no answer because honestly none of us are like that. I’m fact, I am quite camera shy but he loves being in front of it. When we were called to do the Ellen show, I was plenty nervous standing in the backstage but he did with a breeze, it was a delight to even watch him!” Little Kicha adds, “It was awesome being on Ellen’s show! I love New York!”.
Kicha : New York was awesome! I went on a Limousine ride, the Universal Studios, got wet in Niagra Falls, and ate Hot dogs by the park. I can’t wait to go again, yay!
It is not just online that Kicha is popular but all around Kochi too. In fact, when the family goes out to eat, it is a normal occurrence for Kicha to take a tour of the kitchen and talk to chefs in the restaurants and see them preparing food. Ruby says, “Whenever we go out to eat to say Kochi Marriott or Taj, and other high-class hotels, we’ve gotten used to Kicha going around the back to speak to chefs and them being delighted with him around. We used to be very surprised by their reception but now we got used to it.” Ask Kicha who his favourite chefs are and he replies, “I like international chef Gordon Ramsay and Indian chef Sanjeev Kapoor.”
With all this attention, it is but natural to be concerned about his academics. Ruby, however, says they have no need to worry as Kicha is a class topper! “We don’t have a cause for concern when it comes to his studies because he is quite the first in his class. Although we would continuously support him if he wants to take up the profession as a chef it is way too early to decide the same. We were initially perturbed about the sudden catapult to stardom, what with people recognizing him when he is out on the streets or others trying to take a picture with him and more, but he is so comfortable with all this and so full of enthusiasm that it has rubbed off on us. He is going to be just fine.” Kicha says he loves the attention he gets from school. “I like making ice popsicles, easy Chinese dishes, and Puttu at home. Sometimes I take the same to school too because my friends would ask me to bring some.”
We ask little Kicha how he manages to get up so early in the day and cook a spread to take for lunch to his friends when he retorts with a surprised tone and cheekily replies, “Don’t you do that as well?”
A fan of all things that are food, Ruby says as parents they have accepted their kid’s talent in the kitchen and are trying to nurture the same. “It is all him. If he wants to do the video, we film him. He gets no pressure from us to do anything; we leave it all up to him. I can’t understand when parents are not encouraging of their kid’s talents and force them to take a path they believe will be better. One can have a competitive spirit but it is when the competition consumes one that you should stop. Honestly, I got to say here, we are so blessed!” Ruby signs off.
A tiny force to reckon with Kicha is quite the entertainer even when he answers some simple questions:
What is your favourite dish to cook?
What is the one dish you don’t like to eat?
Anything with brinjal. I don’t like the texture.
Who is your inspiration?
Which is your favourite cuisine?
What type of food do you like?
I like sour-tasting foods.
Who eats the most when you cook at home?
Of course, me!