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The rise and rise of online chefs

 Chef Wa Eastlando, Shawwry Of Food [Courtesy, Instagram]

A few years ago, we would have to turn to cookbooks and websites to learn how to prepare our favourite meals, now, everything is available on social media step by step.

Dennis Ombachi, a former rugby player turned self-taught chef is one personality who has mastered the art, accumulating not only views on his social media pages, but opportunities to grow his brand through endorsements and partnerships.

His Instagram page has a staggering 1.4 million followers, while his TikTok account has a whopping 2.3 million followers.

So massive his success as an online chef has been, that he has been featured on various international news sites as well as cooked for the Nigerian superstar Davido.

Another popular food personality is Sueh Owino, the lady who warmed hearts with her daily updates on the complex meals she prepares for her husband.

Sueh’s popularity skyrocketed on social media last year after viewers took notice of the unique food she prepares. The use of food as a love language in her marriage also caused a stir.

Since then, more youth have been jumping on the culinary bandwagon, showing what they can do in the kitchen.

Chef Wa Eastlando, real name Jangu Hudheif, is one charismatic online chef who shows us how he does it on social media, all while speaking in ‘Sheng.

His TikTok account is currently at over 120,000 followers, with an impressive cumulative like count of over 1.5 million.

He tells the Sunday Magazine that when he first started, he did not know how big his online presence would get.

“I’ve been cooking since I was young, and with daily practice, I kept getting better.”

“I see it becoming something bigger than just cooking,” the culinary artiste says, adding, “With time, it can become a whole production, and fashion must be in there too because that is something I am passionate about.”

The culinary artiste, who is always masked and fully concealing his face while cooking also reveals he has a twin brother who often makes appearances for him.

He opens up about how far he goes to conceal his identity, a characteristic he has become known for, and perhaps one that makes him more intriguing to fans.

“Chef Wa Eastlando has never appeared in any interview. Chef does the cooking, the voiceovers and all that, and the person who makes appearances is his twin brother,” he says.

 The culinary artiste is always masked and fully concealing his face while cooking [Courtesy, files Standard]

Njeri Mbekenya, who is popularly known as Shawwry Of Food on social media, is another personality who has captivated fans with interesting, relatable recipes.

In a gentle voice and her signature sign-off, “ili slap!” Njeri knows how to keep her audiences coming back.

From making pizza on a pan to interesting food combinations like her unique bread burger and special egg recipes outside the norm, her creativity flows.

“I started cooking while I was relatively young. And this passion was ignited by my mum,” Njeri tells The Standard, adding, “She is such an affectionate and available parent who loved trying out new recipes.”

She adds: “I remember back then when we didn’t have an oven and my mum would still bake us cakes with a jiko. Her passion and love for us through food radiated so much and made me take on that path.” On TikTok, her steadily increasing following is currently at over 159,000, with a like count of over 2.7 million.

The content creator and culinary artiste says that she comes up with recipes on her own, as the ideas “come to her” at different moments.

“I like going to the market for fresh produce and as I’m just walking around I can spot ingredients that can match together or are in season, and then I come up with something.”

Njeri adds: “Other times I am inspired by different local and international creators.”

 Njeri Mbekenya, popularly known as Shawwry of Food has captivated fans with interesting, relatable recipes [Courtesy, Instagram]

Another popular page that shows food content is Pika Chakula, which is run by one Chandni Solanki, with her husband operating the cameras behind the scenes.

“I handle the recipe creation, cooking, styling, and all the business side of things, while my husband Jai does all the filming, editing, posting and making everything look visually amazing,” she writes in a mini bio about Pika Chakula. The Instagram page has about 290,000 followers, while, on the other hand, the couple’s TikTok account is flourishing with over 130,000 followers and 937,000 likes.

Their story runs deep, as the pair hope to honour the legacy of Chandni’s late brother, whom she sadly lost during the Westgate Mall terror attack in 2013, as she notes on a Question and Answer session.

“He loved food and was passionate about it, but hardly had a clue when it came to making it. He was an IT guy and a visionary. He saw the market gap and created Kenya’s first food blog,” she says.

“We started this journey together almost 10 years ago after my brother Rajan left this legacy behind. In the 10 years, we have filmed over 3000 recipes and worked with 30+ brands.”

The culinary artiste adds that leaving careers they were in behind is a move the couple have never regretted, having found fulfillment and support through their online fans.

Simple Yemi is another skilled and talented chef who prepares meals online. He is self-taught and hopes to teach fans a thing or two about holding one’s own in the kitchen.

Yemi’s home-cooked meals are primarily Kenyan recipes, and viewers are served ideas on how to whip up the likes of matumbo, matoke, chapatti, omena, among other recipes.

He has accumulated over 400,000 followers and 3.4 million likes. Some of his top-viewed TikTok videos have been watched over 2 million times.

A glance at his socials, and it’s clear that he has a wide reach as an influencer, as he has secured partnerships with various major brands including beverages, condiments, kitchenware and even restaurants.

“The rise of home chefs can be attributed to various factors, with the digital age playing a pivotal role. Social media platforms have become virtual dining rooms, allowing home chefs to showcase their creations, connect with food enthusiasts, and build a loyal following,” Aleema Agha explains the phenomenon on Medium.

She adds: “This newfound visibility has transformed cooking from a domestic skill to a marketable talent, creating opportunities for home chefs to monetize their passion.”

Food and drink magazine Palate notes that there is an online takeover of the food industry, and suggests that it is a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced us, as audiences, to stay home and connect online.

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