Masala gets candid with three talented bite-sized foodies.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
The old adage is that too many cooks spoil the broth – or rather, spoil our Instagram feed with endless loops of everyone and their cousin’s attempts at Dalgona coffee and focaccia bread over lockdown. However, these three fledgling foodies have proven to be more than just a flash in the pan – they’ve turned up the heat on their quest for culinary adventure and cooked up charming tales for us to enjoy.
Shawn Srinarula; 11, Student at NIST International School
Initially inspired by his mum’s amazing cooking, videos on YouTube, and Netflix’ cornucopia of food shows, Shawn decided to join the fray and create his own delicious dishes, all while sharing the wealth with his own viewers. Known as the precocious Shawn the Chef on YouTube, Shawn gives his own charismatic take on simple, home cooked meals that anyone can try their hand at.
When did you start cooking?
Whenever my mum would bake bread, I used to follow the beautiful smell into the kitchen, and I would assist her in cooking every chance I got. I realised that I love to cook, so I started making simple food a while ago – I think I was around eight when I first started making omelettes for myself to eat. However, I started my YouTube channel during the COVID-19 lockdown, inspired by people like Mark Wiens on YouTube or Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix, both of which my dad and I love watching. They’re always so happy when eating, and I feel the same. I love to eat, and having my own channel is a good way to learn by doing, and create something fun at the same time.
Tell us more about starting your YouTube channel!
During the lockdown, I asked my mum over and over to teach me how to cook more dishes. I wanted to be able to do something productive. She agreed after a while because the time was right – we were at home and she could make sure that I was safe when handling knives and the gas stove. My dad said that recording myself learning to cook on video would help me get comfortable speaking in public, and I could share my recipes with family and friends. So we created a YouTube channel for me, and the rest is history. Through it, I want to show that if I can learn to cook, then anyone can.
What’s your favourite dish to make, and why?
I cannot decide which is my favourite dish, as I like all the dishes that I’ve made in my cooking journey. Similarly, I’m still trying everything out, so I don’t know what my definite cooking style is yet!
What’s your feedback been like as a child chef?
So far it’s been really supportive, both online and offline, so I’m quite happy about that. What advice would you give to your viewers? If you like to do something, go for it. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old. Just go for it, and don’t give up.
Krishaan ‘Krish’ Phlaphongphanich; 14, Student at Bangkok Patana School (BPS)
Obsessed with the Michelin Guide since he was 10, Krish found that the reality of eating in a Michelin-starred restaurant did not live up to his foodie expectations. Determined to create a reliable guide for good, affordable food, he created his own rating system – the Krishelin Guide and Stars. He’s also waded into the culinary market himself with his own homemade chilli oil, guaranteed to “add a kick to every meal.”
What is the inspiration behind Krishelin Stars?
I have never liked the idea that you can only have good food when you go to expensive and high-end restaurants. Through the Krishelin Guide and Stars, I want to democratise the food rating system. The inspiration behind it is that you do not need a big wallet to eat good food; it’s for everyone.
How did it start?
On a family trip to Hong Kong for my 13th birthday, we went to two 3-Michelin-starred restaurants and being a foodie, I was extremely excited. I cannot describe how disappointed I was during the meal: with the uppity (nakhra) and stuffy atmosphere; the small-portioned dishes; menus clotted with verbiage; and most importantly, the dismally normal taste. There was no doubt that the presentation was stunning, but it didn’t taste as great as it looked. However when we went to Carbone, a restaurant with no Michelin stars, the food was out of this world, the atmosphere was fun, and the bill wasn’t painful! It made me think, what if there was a guide for this kind of experience? As we were having dessert, I said as a joke, “this restaurant has no Michelins, but surely gets a Krishelin.” My parents loved the idea and encouraged me to start @thekrishelin on Instagram.
What are your judging criteria?
Essentially, the three main things I look for are: the quality of the ingredients, the taste of the food, and if it’s worth every penny of the bill. Krishelin Stars are awarded out of three. One star means that it’s a great restaurant and you are guaranteed to have a good time; two stars means exceptionally delicious food that’s worth a stop; and three stars means it’s foodie heaven and should be on everyone’s bucket list. My hope is that Krishelin Stars gives everyone a reliable standard to trust.
What prompted you to create chilli oil specifically?
I hate bland food. Sometimes in restaurants, I find that just adding table salt is not enough. I’ve found that chillies add the most flavour – I had no tolerance for chillies when I was younger but now my meals are incomplete without that ‘kick’ – and so I decided to make chilli oil to put an end to boring and bland meals. During the lockdown, we spent many weeks perfecting the recipe for our chilli oil, Spice It! By Krishelin. We use only premium ingredients, including olive oil, and it is vegan, MSGfree, preservative-free, and gluten-free.
Do you feel that being a younger critic makes people react differently?
Some advantages are that it is a fun passion project and there’s no pressure. I also have a community that is very supportive – from my friends and peers, my teachers, and of course my family and relatives. Their support really allowed me to grow to where I am today. However, there are a few challenges with being younger. I am very committed to growing my guide but feel that some people do not take me seriously due to my age. While I understand that it takes time to build trust, it does frustrate me. In the future, I hope this hobby can turn into something bigger. I am very thankful that I have a platform like Instagram which allows me the opportunity to have a voice and hopefully make an impact.
What’s the most important advice you’d give other foodies?
Never judge a book by its cover. Even if the dish does not look nice or the restaurant is a streetside restaurant, never look down on it. Also, be adventurous and keep on trying new cuisines; you might just discover your new favourite dish. Finally, keep on loving food!
Check out Krish’s food ratings and order his chilli oil @thekrishelin on Instagram, or WhatsApp him at 063 237 1919
Shauna Chawla Parera; 9, Student at St. Andrews International School Bangkok
Growing up with an older sister who loved to cook and bake for the family, Shauna didn’t let her pint-sized palate stop her from lending a hand and, eventually, making her own culinary concoctions. Although she’s a dab hand at both the stove and oven, her passion lies in baking sweets for herself to devour, becoming even more prolific during the lockdown downtime.
What’s your biggest inspiration when cooking and baking?
My big sister. She cooks and bakes a lot and I always want to help her because she’s always making new meals for the family. She feeds all of us. How did you start, and what was your first dish? I started a couple of years ago – I guess I was six or seven. One day, my cousin and I were at her house and we were bored and hungry so we looked up a recipe for pasta carbonara and we just made it! It was really good, although she added a lot of cheese, and I would have preferred less. After that, I decided that I loved it and I really wanted to keep cooking and baking.
Why do you prefer baking over cooking?
I like how precise it is, and I have a sweet tooth!
What are your favourite things to bake?
Vanilla cake and chocolate chip cookies. I especially love spices like cinnamon; I think they add a really nice flavour to any dish.
Do you bake for your family?
My sister cooks for my family, so mainly I just bake for myself! I like to help my sister out when she bakes for us though. She’ll bake something and when it’s finished, she’ll bake another thing immediately. She tries new things, so I, too, get to try new things. Especially during the lockdown period, my sisters and I ended up cooking a lot – although my middle sister mostly just eats what we make! She’s our taste tester.
Do you follow recipes precisely or experiment on your own?
My sister makes her own recipes, so mostly I follow her. I don’t make my own recipes, but I do like to add some of my own flavours – like cinnamon!
Any advice for kids who want to start cooking or baking?
Don’t give up! Once I made brownies and it came out really burnt because I only turned on the bottom of the oven. It was burnt on the bottom but cooked on the top…but I just cut off the top half and we could still eat it! Thankfully, I didn’t let that stop me from continuing to bake.
If you want to see more of Shauna’s culinary adventures, follow her mum on Instagram @praveenachawla