“THE best part about cooking is eating it!” exclaims self-taught chef Danish Harraz Abd Hafiz when we meet for brunch at Breakfast Thieves in Jalan Riong, Bangsar.
He may only be 10 years old but this little boy is making a big name for himself. He runs his own online cooking and baking business called Danish’s Red Kitchen.
Last month, Danish, who has an Instagram account with almost 60,000 followers, was discovered by Cartoon Network. The American-based channel wanted Danish to be part of their Powfactor campaign in Malaysia. Powfactor, derived from the kids’ show The Powerpuff Girls, is a global initiative which started last year that helps children discover the “special ingredient” within them that drives them to change the world.
In particular, it recognises children who have found a way to empower themselves and give back to their communities.
“I’m honoured to be part of Cartoon Network’s Powfactor so I can inspire other children to find their Powfactor,” says Danish enthusiastically.
Elsewhere in Asia, children who have demonstrated their Powfactor include 14-year-old Kyra Poh from Singapore, who was recently crowned as the World’s Fastest Flyer, and Isabel Sieh, Hamzah Marbella and Louise Mabulo from the Philippines, who are making their mark in the art, culinary and digital spaces.
PASSION FOR COOKING
Danish’s passion for cooking and fascination with kitchen utensils started when he was 3.
“Danish is the kind of kid who likes to try everything,” shares his mum, Noorliza Abdul Rahman. “Before this, he loved music, attended piano and ukulele classes. When he started showing interest in cooking, we didn’t expect it to grow bigger. I mean, he tried this and that but cooking was what stuck.”
Danish admits that he enjoys cooking more than other activities because he likes the fun in preparing things and experimenting with ingredients. He also says that it makes him happy to share the food with other people as he wants them to have a yummy life — it’s the reason why he provides recipes and shares cooking videos on his Instagram account.
The first meal Danish cooked was spaghetti bolognaise. “My parents loved it, they said it was yummy. I also baked chocolate chip cookies for my friends in school,” shares Danish, who is a student at a private school in Shah Alam. Danish improves himself by learning through the Internet, as he notes on his Instagram profile: “Internet Is My Culinary School, Google & Youtube Are My Teachers”.
“He likes to try recipes and create his own. But sometimes he doesn’t want to eat what he cooks so we have to give the food to our neighbours and even the security guards,” confesses his mum, who is usually Danish’s guinea pig, along with his dad.
Danish can now bake different kinds of cakes, and makes chicken cordon bleu and pasta, among the many dishes. But his bestselling offerings are Spicy Cheesy Carbonara Meatballs and Butterscotch Nutella Bread Pudding.
“Do you eat cheese naan? Try Danish’s Easy Peasy Cheesy Quesadilla, you’ll forget about cheese naan,” quips his mum.
As parents, adds Noorliza, they guide Danish and always encourage him to follow his heart. “When he was 6, he asked if he could cook and bake by himself. So I agreed but we monitored him. I taught him the correct way to use the knives.”
Noorliza feels that it’s important to support their child and not hold him back. Danish is free to follow his dreams, Noorliza feels, but she constantly reminds him that he needs to give it his all and not do it half-heartedly.
Danish’s dad Abd Hafiz Abd Halim chips in: “He listens very well. It’s not hard to look after him. We always tell him beforehand ‘don’t play with sharp things, be careful with hot stuff, there are ways to handle certain utensils’ and ‘you can get hurt in the kitchen’. But if he gets hurt, he won’t be as surprised as he already knows the risks.”
Of course, being a kid, he doesn’t stay away from trouble. “Yeah, I cut my fingers, I spilt things here and there, and I burnt stuff. But I never give up. After a while I get used to it and am more careful now,” he confesses, smiling.
Noorliza chips in: “One rule, he must never be in the kitchen alone. One of us must be with him.”
So, does Danish cook for the family? I ask.
“Of course, but they need to help as well, they cannot ‘goyang kaki’!” says Danish, chuckling.
Other than running his business and going to school, Danish is one busy bee as he also receives many interview requests from radios and newspapers. “But my parents always help me with my schedule,” he says.
During the recent school break, Danish was invited by Setia City Mall to give a cooking demonstration as part of its school holiday campaign. “I was happy to inspire those people and give them a chance to taste my food,” shares Danish, who wowed the audience with his famous moist Peach Banana Cake and Butterscotch Nutella Bread Pudding.
With Danish’s busy schedule, how does this family of three spend their time together?
“We have our family time. We have an entertainment room for us to hang out. We watch movies, play board games, console games,” shares 39-year-old Abd Hafiz, who works as a project manager in Mutiara Subang, while his 40-year-old wife works as a freelance accountant.
Other than his schedule, Danish’s parents also monitor his social media. Although he has many followers, there are haters as well. Recently, one netizen made fun of Danish’s chubbiness. He was saddened and felt disappointed by the hurtful comment. So he turned to his source of inspiration — his parents. He stays true to what they have been teaching him — to be kind no matter what.
“We need to be kind to everybody. It doesn’t matter if they’re good or bad people. If we keep showing kindness, who knows, maybe they will be a good person too. I’m also blessed to have my followers who stand up for me, offer kind words and encouragement,” says Danish, who always uses the hashtags #KindnessIsFree and #SpreadLoveNotHate on most of his Instagram posts.
When we meet, Danish dons a hipster look — a grey fedora hat, buttoned up shirt with folded sleeves, black-framed glasses, blue jeans and red trainers. “It looks right. My followers like the hat. This is my trademark now,” he says, grinning.
But with great fame, comes great responsibility. Ten per cent of Danish’s Red Kitchen revenue goes to the Need to Feed the Need (NFN), a community-run soup kitchen.
“I saw the post on NFN Facebook page that it needed funds and help. So I contacted them and asked if I can help. I baked for them. Now I’m one of the crew members. It takes place every Thursday night at Medan Tuanku where the distribution centre is,” explains Danish, who adds that he tries to go there every Thursday if he’s not too busy.
Danish’s dad chips in: “We’ve always wanted to do charity but we didn’t know what to do or where to go. Then one day Danish told us ‘Mama, Papa, we need to go to Medan Tuanku, I already set up everything’. So we went there and one of the founders asked me ‘Are you Danish?’ He was surprised when I said no and pointed to my son!”
The experience of feeding the less fortunate made Danish feel more grateful for what he had. It also prompted Danish to establish his own charity called Danish’s Love & Support Crew last year, which consists of his parents and four of his followers. The group’s first project was visiting Kuala Lumpur Hospital (HKL) and entertaining some cancer-stricken children.
“We put a smile on their faces. We gave them food and I even hired a clown. They were so happy!” shares Danish, eyes shining. He also visited the family of those children to support them by donating groceries and other needs. Apart from that, Danish also organised a bake sale to raise funds for the HKL cancer children support group, which is the focus for Danish’s charity for now. “We also plan to visit orphanages and old folks homes too,” Danish reveals.
With eyes swelling with pride, Abd Hafiz says of his only son: “He inspires us, really.”
So what’s next for little Danish?
“I have a five-year plan. I want to open my own cafe. I don’t have the name yet but right now, let’s call it Danish’s Red Kitchen. I will serve my bread pudding and my chicken dishes. For drinks, maybe it’ll have coffee and hot chocolate,” he says contentedly.
When asked what kind of advice Danish would give to other children who have big dreams like him, Danish replies: “You just need to do what you love and never give up. Stay determined. Mistakes are proofs that you’re trying. Just don’t make the same mistake again lah.”
So if the Powerpuff Girls were born when Professor Utonium accidentally added Chemical X to his recipe of sugar, spice, and everything nice, what’s Danish’s “special ingredient”?
“My ‘special ingredient’ is kindness. I believe that if we focus on kindness, the world will become kinder and we’ll become kinder too. And that what drives me to do the things that I do,” Danish concludes.
Follow Danish Harraz on Instagram at danish.harraz