By V.Shuman

"Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity," goes a quote by American author Augustine "Og" Mandino.

That mantra could very well apply to chef Kalidevan Murugaya, 28, or better known as Chef Dave on social media.

Kalidevan recently started a Youtube channel featuring vegan cooking after losing his job as a chef in an international cruise line due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is fast gaining traction.

Astro Ulagam caught up with "Chef Dave" to hear his story.

Being a fan of cooking since he was young, Kalidevan decided to make it his career of profession after his studies, to much opposition from his father, he recalled.

"You know the perception with most Indian families, that only jobs like doctor, engineer, and lawyer, will pay the bills and put food on the table.

"Although most of my family was supportive of me pursuing my studies in the culinary field, my father was against it," he said.

However, Kalidevan perservered through the opposition and went on to study at a culinary school in a local college, before securing a scholarship to study for a bachelor's degree in hospitality, tourism and leisure management, in Liverpool, the United Kingdom.

Upon his return to Malaysia in 2012, Kalidevan started working as a junior chef at a five-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and eventually climbed the ladder to become a sous chef. He also earned a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) while serving as a chef.

In 2019, Kalidevan joined the Disney Cruise Line as the Western Cuisine chef - sailing through Europe, the UK, and the US, while doing what he was passionate about.

The 'awakening'

Kalidevan, however, met with an accident in the kitchen late last year, which required a surgery to his leg.

He flew back to Malaysia to have the surgery and while he was on MC to recuperate at home, he became exposed to videos about global warming and climate change.

"It was shocking to know that animal agriculture was part of a contributing factor to climate change.

"That led me to videos about animal cruelty in the meat and dairy industry, and watching those deeply disturbed me, emotionally," he recalled.

That's when he decided to turn vegan, and to give "voice to the voiceless", make Youtube videos on vegan cooking.

In February, the renewal of employment contract with Disney Cruise Line was up and he requested to be posted to the vegetarian food department, and the company initially agreed.

"This was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, right before Malaysia enforced the Movement Control Order (MCO).

"However, the rehiring process kept getting delayed and I was eventually told that hiring has been frozen due to the pandemic," he said.

"I was devastated. I was looking forward to get back to work after months of MC, and there I was, jobless and without any income," Kalidevan recalled.

Passion project comes to life

Despite the setback, Kalidevan decided to dedicate time he suddenly found he had more of, for his passions - cooking and veganism.

He shot videos of making traditional Malaysian food - albeit the vegan version of it, every single day, for one month, and uploaded it on his channel, called ChefDave Vegan Journey.

He shot the videos with voiceover in two languages - English and Mandarin, and edited them himself, before uploading them on the site.

"Vegans often face issues eating their local favourites, such as nasi lemak, roti canai, or mee goreng mamak, but as a chef, I know how to make these while staying vegan," he said.

Despite his efforts, the Youtube channel only managed to garner about 1,900 subscribers in one month.

"This thoroughly demotivated me. At the same time, I also the error of my ways.

"It made me think why I did not make the videos in Malay to reach more of the local crowd," Kalidevan said.

He also took another approach to reach the masses. He printed 1,000 copies of a memo detailing his background, his loss of job, and his newly started Youtube channel, and left them at the doorstep of his neighbours at his condominium in Sentul.

The idea certainly worked, by slightly upping the subscriber count to 2,000, but he noticed a strange occurrence the same night.

His subscriber count was now up to 10,000, and when he followed the trail, the viral factor was traced to a tweet by a 17-year-old Malay girl about his Youtube channel.

To date, the Youtube channel has over 20,500 subscribers, and Kalidevan is also on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Kalidevan now makes about three videos a week, mainly on Ramadan specialties.

He also now shoots his video in Malay, mixed with Tamil and Mandarin, and provides subtitles in Bahasa Melayu, English, and Mandarin, for the sake of the hearing impaired who might want to benefit from his cooking channel.

Asked about his next course of plan, Kalidevan said he wishes to become a vegan activist through his cooking.

"However, it must begin with awareness among the people about veganism.

"Most people do not understand the difference between veganism and vegetarianism, and that veganism is more related to ethical reasons, and the latter, for diet and religious reasons.

"I think knowing the difference is an early step in the awareness," he said.

Photos source: Chef Dave