I want to be an astro chef,” says six-year-old Nihal Raj in his Kochi home. “I want to be an astronaut who can go to outer space and cook. After many years, because of overpopulation, there will be no space on earth. People will start living on the Moon and on Mars. So I am going to invent an oven which can be used in space.”
Nihal, who goes by the name of Kicha (Lord Krishna, Nihal’s mother’s favourite god), is in the middle of a media hurricane. Nearly every day, he is getting calls from journalists all over India for interviews.
On September 23, Kicha was featured in the popular Ellen DeGeneres TV show in the US, on which he demonstrated how puttu (steamed rice with grated coconut, bananas and honey) is made. When Ellen asked, “How’s it to be in the US?” Kicha jumped up and down and said, “It’s fun.”
However, Kicha’s turning point came in May this year when he showed how mango ice-cream is made on his Kicha Tube cooking channel on YouTube. Soon after, Facebook bought the video rights for $2,000. Thereafter, Kicha was featured in several international magazines, websites and on television. Right after this, makers of the Ellen DeGeneres show asked him to be featured on the programme. They gave an all expenses paid trip to the US to Kicha’s father V K Rajagopal, mother Ruby, his 20-year-old sister Nidha and the child chef.
Kicha has uploaded about 45 videos. In each, he explains how a dish is made. These include items like tender coconut pudding, brownies, Punjabi lassi, Sago patties, garlic fried rice, ice cream cake and bread pizza. Rajagopal records the videos on Sunday and uploads them every Wednesday.
“Kicha’s recipes are either baking or refrigeration-based,” says Ruby. “For baking, I put the tray inside the oven. When he uses a hand blender, we always mention that parental guidance is required. The last time Kicha used the blender, a lady said, ‘Son, be careful about your left hand’. Kicha replied that his mother was standing next to him, just outside the frame.”
There is appreciation too. Viewer Rajah Shan says, “I am a grandfather. I love your recipes. Tried your bread pizza, and it turned out to be beautiful.”
Meanwhile, Kicha is waiting to be nine years old. “That is when my mother will allow me to cook over the fire,” he says with a smile.