Founder Of D’Vegan Academy For Vegan Cooking Classes

You’ve probably heard of Chef Dave, the vegan chef who went viral last year for his recipes recreating popular Malaysian dishes without using animal products. It also equips interested enthusiasts with the techniques and skills to virtually cook plant-based dishes through the D’Vegan Academy.

“After 1 year of creating content, I realized that a lot of my audience really enjoyed cooking and wanted to learn more, but they didn’t have the right channels to equip themselves with the right cooking techniques and skills,” said the Chief Dave at Vulcan Post.

“I realized that they still lacked confidence in technical cooking skills, so I decided to create this academy to encourage them, build their confidence while preparing them with all the knowledge needed to become a better cook.

Her YouTube channel was launched in December 2019 to document her journey of transitioning to veganism. Today, he has already reached 60.7k subscribers and his public Facebook page has over 134k subscribers.

Sharpen your skills

For starters, Chef Dave has always targeted a mass audience. Being multilingual, her first videos were made in English and Mandarin.

It wasn’t until a layoff from his job as a Disney cruise line manager last March that he started uploading one new video a day to deal with his boredom during the AGC.

There are around 100 videos on his channel / Image Credit Chef Dave

Despite its efforts, the channel only attracted around 1.9k subscribers in a month in 2020, a figure it deemed low. Chef Dave told Astro Ulagam: “It totally demotivated me. At the same time, I also saw the error of my manners. And this oversight did not make his videos in Malay to target a larger local audience.

Spinning quickly, he saw an influx of subscribers, albeit mostly foreign. To reach more Malaysians, he improvised and left a memo explaining his situation on the doorstep of everyone living in his condo.

It worked and its subscriber count hit 10k. Overjoyed but curious, he followed the cookie crumbs only to find it was all thanks to a tweet of a 17-year-old malaise on his YouTube channel.

Chief Dave told Vulcan Post that the majority of its subscriber demographics are 62% female, of which 79.7% are Malays. The rest are citizens of Singapore, Indonesia, India, United States, Australia, Brunei, Philippines, Canada and others.

He even added that 90% of his Facebook followers don’t even consider themselves vegans. “They just want to learn about veganism and learn about healthy plant-based foods. Some people have told me that they love to watch me cook because they find it entertaining, ”said the chef.

That’s what his academy decided to do, but Chef Dave’s personal entry into the vegan community hasn’t been easy either.

Challenge of personal prejudices

Speaking to Vulcan Post, Chef Dave confessed that he didn’t even know the definition of “vegan” until he adopted the diet. Plus, he had his own prejudices against vegetarians.

The chef used to mockingly retort that plants felt pain, especially to those who said it was wrong to eat animals that hurt themselves in the process.

After watching a documentary on climate change and animal cruelty, however, he came to terms with his flawed judgment, ultimately embracing the way of life as well.

“It was pretty lonely when I first went vegan because I didn’t really have a lot of vegan friends,” he explained. “At first I didn’t even know there was a vegan community in Malaysia. When I found vegan Facebook groups I got excited and joined them to be part of the community. “

Wanting to encourage more Malaysians to embrace the regime, he made the barrier to entry to his courts an easy one. For just a lifetime membership fee of RM88, everyone is welcome to join the D’Vegan Academy.

Classes are conducted live and videos will also be recorded in the group for those who could not attend to replay at their own pace. If the students need clarification on any details, the leader will answer their difficulties through his weekly question-and-answer sessions.

No fancy production equipment, just a phone mounted in the kitchen / Image credit: Chef Dave

The lessons also aim to educate members on vegan cooking techniques, instead of the procedure for predetermined recipes. This way, students can adapt the skills learned to their own recipes and share their dishes with other classmates online.

“In one year there will be 52 classes where students will learn different types of Malaysian cuisines including Orang Asli, Malay, Indian, Baba Nyonya, Sabah and Sarawakian cuisines,” commented Chef Dave.

D’Vegan Academy currently has 1,350 students and hopes to welcome around 1,000 more, made up of B40 women who are struggling to afford it thanks to the #TABUNGKASIH initiative. This is where the public can sponsor an individual B40’s admission fee by donating to the initiative.

To be eligible, beneficiaries simply need to show proof that they are beneficiaries of Bantuan Sara Hidup.

Asked about his future plans, Chef Dave said he’s not looking to return to cooking on the seas. Instead, he decided to develop the academy, which will be a long-term endeavor with the goal of reaching 10,000 members by the end of 2021.

The objective is to enable women to acquire appropriate cooking techniques. To do this, they will be able to venture into small home businesses and help their families with health issues, as they now know how to cook healthy meals and educate Malaysians.

Chef Dave, founder of D’Vegan Academy.

  • You can read more about Chef Dave here.
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Featured Image Credit: Chef Dave, Founder of D’Vegan Academy

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Jothi Venkat

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