These Two Malaysians Are Living Their Dreams As Online Chefs

A new career path for you, perhaps?

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These Two Malaysians Are Living Their Dreams As Online Chefs
Facebook/Sheena's Cooking Passion & Instagram/Yatie's Kitchen

Two online chefs chasing their dreams.

Remember the mouthwatering smell of authentic, home cooked meals wafting out of the kitchen once you come back home from a long day?

That smell reminds you of the cosiness of your home, where you spend hours and hours eating a perfect meal at your favourite spot in the living room or kitchen, savouring every mouthful that was lovingly cooked by your grandmother or mother.

If you are lucky enough to grow up in this sort of environment, the wonderful taste of home cooked meals must be the first thing that you miss when you are away from home.

Understandably, it is not easy to recreate the dishes you have fondly eaten since young because no matter how you try, it would not taste the same. Plus, you were probably too busy enjoying your food that you forgot to ask what goes into it or learn how it’s made.

But for those who would still love to give it a go, online cooking videos or tutorials come in handy to recreate dishes that taste the closest to the ones they get at home.

And because the demand for online cooking videos is high, online chefs (fashionably called online cooking stars), are emerging to virtually feed their
‘hungry’ followers with recipes that have been passed down the family for generations.

Many of these online cooking stars are ‘paid’ with gratitude and even fame, in exchange for their passion and generousity in sharing the recipes. There are still others who are so successful that they went on to write cook books and even become brand ambassadors.

Rojak Daily spoke to two online cooking stars who have found success.

Sheena and her cooking passion

Sheena showing her passion online.
Haseena Mohamed Ali, or better known as Sheena Haikal, is a household name in at least hundreds of thousands of homes in the country.

She was just like any home cook, enjoying her passion for food and experimenting in the kitchen, before she made it big with her online presence and influence.

Haseena said that she was blessed to grow up in an environment that embraces cooking as part of their lives.

“I learned cooking from my mum and dad. They are excellent cooks and my dad used to own a restaurant back then, when I was about nine years old. I assisted in the restaurant as much as I could.

Sheena learned to cook from her parents.
“From there, I observed the way he cooked. His methods. His secret recipes. Not long after that, he sold the restaurant and I begin to observe my mum’s cooking at home and learnt from there,” she said.

Haseena said her mom’s cooking lessons, coupled with her obsession with collecting cook books and trying out the recipes, led her to experiment vastly in the kitchen.

She tries to keep to the authenticity of the dishes as much as she can, but wherever the recipe allows, she adds a twist of her own to bring the dishes to another level altogether.

Haseena told us that by 16 years old, she was a full-fledged home cook.

“I remember my first dish was ‘cucur udang’ (prawn fritters). Everyone went crazy over it. That was a great motivation to me to cook more.

Self-made chef.
“My biggest critic and was my mum. She is also my biggest motivator.

“As I learnt to cook more, I ventured into cooking main dishes like rice and curry. In fact, I would often disturb my mom at work by calling her and asking for a certain recipe, then cooking it before she reaches home.

“The minute she reaches home from work, I would rush to her and impatiently ask her to taste the dishes I cooked. She has always been the quality controller for my dishes even until today,” the 32-year-old laughed.

Haseena’s passion for cooking now rubs off on her four-year-old son Aryan and she looks forward to passing on her skills to him.

Although cooking has always been her passion, stumbling upon online avenues and gaining fame from it was quite a coincidence.

Sheena slowly gained fame.
Haseena said she often shares the dishes she cooks on her personal Facebook page. However, one day, she got the idea of posting her dishes on a popular Facebook cooking group called ‘Masak Apa Hari Ini’.

“Upon posting the dishes there, many people started asking for the recipe. From there, I started posting recipes too, along with the photos of the dishes I cooked.

“My friends soon saw how popular my postings are and they encouraged me to start my own cooking and recipe page.

“I started my page Sheena’s Cooking Passion on 6 April 2016 and never looked back since,” she said.

Sheena shares a step-by-step recipe on her Facebook page.
For the past three years, Haseena has been diligently posting new recipes on her page, attracting new followers and growing her page without the help of the ‘boost’ function.

To date, she has over 200,000 followers who regularly share and comment on her postings.

Looking at the overwhelming response from her followers, she also created a Facebook group called “Let’s Cook With Sheena” where her followers share the dishes that they have cooked, largely inspired by Haseena’s recipes.

“My chicken briyani and butter chicken recipe are the most popular dishes on my page to date, with hundreds of thousands of shares,” she said.

Sheena is now a published author.
Haseena’s success with her own cooking page prompted her to realise her longtime dream – to publish a cook book of her own.

“Being an ardent collector of cook books since I was little, I have always dreamt of having my own cook book one day. However, the dream didn’t materialise because I could not find an appropriate publisher.

"Recently, I found a publisher to my liking, called MHK Communications. I approached them and they were more than happy to publish the first edition of cook book,” she explained.

Since Hassena already have all the recipes and photos, she just compiled everything in less than a month and sent the copy for publishing.

Called 'Sheena’s Kitchen Diary', the book boasts a total of 70 recipes printed on 147 pages.

“The book has a mixture of Malaysian recipes but with emphasis on Indian recipes. It has infographics, photos and step by step instructions. The recipes are very detailed, just like how I post on my page,” she said.

A dream come true for Sheena.
At first, Haseena was unsure of the response that she would be getting for the book as people can get some of the recipes on her Facebook page.

She tested the market by opening a pre-order, which requires a print-on-demand method to print the book.

“I was surprised to receive an overwhelming response to the book which retails at RM40. I received over 400 orders and had to close the orders.

“However, the orders kept on coming. I might open another pre-order soon,” she quipped.

Wanna learn how to make Deepavali cookies?
The encouraging response that she received for her first cook book, prompted her to come up with another book just in time for the Deepavali celebrations at the end of the month.

The limited-edition book is meant to help home cooks to whip up delicious meals for Deepavali. 

Moving forward, Haseena has several long term plans up her sleeves.

“I would like to conduct cooking classes in the future as the demand is increasing. I also have plans to sell my special homemade masala. There is also a plan underway to launch a cooking app.”

Yatie and her kitchen

Who's Yatie? She's Yatie!
Mention the name Yatie Kitchen and almost immediately, delicious home cooked meals come to mind.

The person behind the famous Instagram account is bubbly Nurhayati Zainol Abidin, fondly called Kak Yatie, by her ardent fans and followers.

Her passion for cooking started at the tender age of 10, following the footsteps of her parents who are both great cooks.

“I am the second child of three siblings. We are all girls and love to watch our parents cook. I slowly learnt to cook from there. You’ll always find me in the kitchen,” she said.

She started her Instagram page, Yatie Kitchen, in 2015, simply to post her everyday cooking as an online journal.

Yatie and her fans.
She only had 300 followers at first and her detailed recipe only and her cooking videos slowly became a hit in the online community.

Her follower count has now reached more than 500,000, and that list includes VVIPs, royalties and even local celebrities like Siti Nurhaliza (she told us that Siti who loves her ‘Nasi Goreng Kampung’ and ‘Kacang Pool’ recipe).

Surprisingly, she even has a fan page called Yatie Kitchen Recipe on Facebook.

“I didn’t expect to get the response that I am getting now. I get gratitude messages every day from followers who call me their ‘cooking guru’. I am truly humbled by their response,” she said.

Yatie shares her recipes online.
The 42-year-old, who uses her smartphone to take photos and videos of her dishes, said one of her most popular dishes is the ‘Sotong Goreng Kunyit’ (Fried Tumeric Squid).

Her online popularity quickly attracted the attention of consumer company Adabi, and they wanted Nurhayati to come onboard as its ambassador. She was in total disbelief when the opportunity came knocking on her door.

“I’ve never dreamt of going far in this industry because I always think there are better people than me out there.

“In fact, when Adabi approached me, I was skeptical and told them I am not a celebrity. But they want someone who really loves cooking to represent them. I am really grateful for the opportunity,” she said.

Yatie now has her own book.
Nurhayati also recently published a book called ‘Koleksi Tips & Resipi Masakan Yatiekitchen’ which has all her recipes and cooking tips.

“I was not even planning to publish a book but when a publisher approached me to do so, I decided to jump on the bandwagon because Instagram could cease to exist one day, who knows.

“What’s special about the book is it has two versions. The first one is a regular cooking book and the second one is a special edition for the fasting month. It retails at RM45 and RM30 respectively,” she said.

She said to date, the book has received tremendous support and response.

“The public can get the book from Studio MHK , Bandar Tun Hussein Onn, Kyl’s Corner Bookstore and Plaza Metro Kajang. You can also get it online via my Yatie Kitchen Instagram comment section, where personal shoppers will assist you.

Big brands have come knocking.
And for those of you who are fasting, Nurhayati has one very simple tip.

“We have to pay extra attention to our stomach or digestive system during the fasting month. To avoid stomach ache, the food for ‘sahur’ has to be freshly cooked so that it is hot to be eaten. Keep it simple.

“Do not buy food and keep it overnight to be reheated during ‘sahur’,” she added.

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