They have none of the modern equipment that celebrity chefs boast of, nor do they have suave and shiny kitchens to cook in or any prior camera experience. Their studios are the lush fields and rustic village settings, their expressions authentic and videos simple and intimate.
What they do have is wholehearted love for cooking and feeding people, interesting local ingredients and recipes, lots of experience, an army of enthusiastic helpers and millions of subscribers who wait for each video to be uploaded.
We take a look at the grandma and grandpa chefs who have taken authentic, village food viral and international:
Jaymukh - Village Food Factory: When Arumugam set about launching a channel to showcase his father’s cooking, little did he expect that he would catapult his father, Jaymukh Gopinath from a little village in the Theni district in Tamil Nadu, into internet stardom and even get featured in The New Yorker.
Each one of his videos on his channel Village Food Factory gathers lakhs of views, thousands of comments and requests for recipes. A video uploaded by his son, who left his profession as a filmmaker to join his father, has the elderly man cooking a recipe called ‘King of Chicken Legs’, using 100 chicken legs – the video has gathered more than 32 million views so far.
Dressed in a lungi, with the field as his backdrop, Jaymukh goes about cooking food – usually freshly caught fish, poultry or mutton, along with locally grown vegetables, fruits and grains. Jaymukh is often seen posing with his catch – a turkey, a 120 kg stingray or an entire goat, which then becomes a part of his meal. He prepares the food in huge woks, the quantities are copious and enough to feed the many villagers who feature in his video.
Suman Dhamane - Aapli Aaji: The latest Youtube cooking sensation, 70-year-old Suman Dhamane from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra had no idea about what YouTube or social media was until a pav bhaji she made, which her grandson uploaded on to YouTube in January, this year, went viral.
She went on to become the star chef of her own channel Aapli Aaji (our grandmother) featuring Maharashtrian recipes. On Instagram, the grandma cook has more than 1000 followers, while on YouTube, each of her videos gathers lakhs of views.
Aapli Aaji, which has garnered more than 6 lakh subscribers in just six months, features traditional Maharasthran recipes such as vada pav, pohe, stuffed bitter gourd and traditional spices, which she makes on a commercial basis. Her viewers often send requests to her to feature a recipe of her choice, which she happily obliges.
Narayana Reddy - Grandpa Kitchen: Each video starts with the faces of happy children relishing the heaping plates of food given to them. From a giant pizza to a huge steaming wok full of mutton curry, to enough maggi noodles and macaroni and cheese to feed an army of hungry children – Narayana Reddy, the Youtube star from Telangana delighted in cooking Indian and Western food to his family and the children from the nearby orphanages.
In an interview with CNN, Srikanth Reddy, his grandson, said that the idea for the channel came from when they used to visit him during the vacations and he would cook large meals for them. They then decided to take the initiative online and cook for the community – the grandchildren gave up their jobs to work on the channel.
The first video that was uploaded was a scrambled egg dish made from 2000 eggs, which garnered more than 3.2 million views. The grandpa has since made a number of local and international dishes, including vegetable Manchurian, gulab jamun, a red velvet cake, cheese balls and samosas, mutton curry, chicken biriyani, amongst other more traditional food. Interestingly, one of his most popular videos was one featuring crispy French fries, with 54 million views. The cooking sensation passed away in October, last year - his death reported internationally and mourned by his more than 6 million fan base.
Savithramma - Myna Street Food: This octogenarian grandmother rustles up traditional recipes such as murrel fish curry, lamb curry, country chicken curry, Mysore pak and even a special pizza, which they call India’s biggest pizza.
Savithramma’s channel, Myna Street Food, which has a subscriber base of 1.3 million viewers, is so popular that siblings A Deva Chandra Raju and T Chakradhar, along with their grandmother, often recruits other grandmas as well to help with the videos.
Based out of Machilipatna, in Andhra Pradesh, the channel’s videos get thousands of likes and comments with viewers asking the grandma and her team to make special recipes from their states, visiting her and even sending her gifts. In between cooking her food, Savithramma even regales her ever-growing fan base with a dance.
Mastanamma - Country Foods: The death of Karre Mastanamma, a 107-year-old lady from the village of Gudivada in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh gained not just Indian, but international attention as well. As one of the oldest YouTubers in the world, Karre Mastanamma, was a celebrity in her own right – her Youtube channel Country Foods garnered around 1.54 million subscribers from the time it was launched in 2016.
Her rustic videos, which feature the ever-smiling toothless grandma cooking with a gusto that rivalled her age, entertained viewers with its recipes and stories. Mastanamma could cook simple tomato rice with as much gusto as she would an exotic looking watermelon chicken or emu egg fry. Her equipment was bare minimum, she would use her hands and nails to peel garlic and other vegetables.
Omana - Village Cooking: Omana Amma, the star chef of the YouTube channel Village Cooking - Kerala is 64 years old, from Pathanamthitta, and uses a knife that is 24 years old – so says the description of her Youtube channel Village Cooking – Kerala.
Launched by siblings Amjith S. and Abhijith S, the channel has 482K subscribers. Often assisted by her grandchildren, Omana Amma forages her lush backyard to search for ingredients to add into her dishes. Her channel features a wide variety of authentic Kerala dishes, including jackfruit payasam (kheer), tapioca and fish curry, fish pickle, Aviyal and country chicken curry, among others.
Pushparani Sarkar - Villfood Kitchen: She is 82 and frail-looking - but that did not stop the strong-willed grandmother from becoming a viral sensation and YouTube millionaire. Pushparani Sarkar, who lives in the Banavalli village in West Bengal’s Santiniketan stars in Villfood Kitchen, a village cooking channel with a subscriber base of 226K.
Through her videos, Sarkar has done much to revive and popularise traditional rural Bengali dishes from her village, many of which are not available anywhere outside, using vegetables available in the farm near her house. Some of her recipes date back 100 years and the first video that her grandson, Sudip Sarkar uploaded was Kumro Fuler Bora or pumpkin flower fritters, back in July 2017. Since then, her videos, and the others on the channel, have been raking up views and money as well.