THERE are very few people who can balance their lives the way 13-year-old Danish Harraz has.
A self-taught cook, Danish has been wowing us with his wonderful skills on Instagram for years, but what many do not know is that at age nine he set up his own charity group, called Danish Love and Support Crew.
“When I was young, I loved trying and exploring new things. I am blessed to have very supportive parents. They let me explore whatever I want, as long as it’s not a bad thing or wastes my time. They will guide me and teach me.
“One day, I told them that I wanted to try to cook. This happened after I spent a lot of my time watching cooking videos and tutorials on YouTube.
“My mum said that it was okay, and she started to include me every time she went to the kitchen to prepare meals. In the very beginning, she gave me [child-size] utensils and let me cut vegetables using a plastic butter knife. She let me observe, stir the pot and sprinkle herbs and salt.
“After that, I wanted to do more. She let me pick any recipe that I want to try and she would prepare the ingredients and guide me according to the recipe, so that I can do it by myself.
“I never had formal cooking or baking classes as I learnt from the internet. I love watching the process of how they prepare all those delicious dishes.
“The first recipe I successfully cooked all by myself was when I was six, spaghetti bolognese. My first dessert was caramel pudding. I felt happy, and so proud of myself at that time.”
He explained that he started Danish’s Love & Support Crew to expand his charity work.
“When I was seven, I was a crew member with a local soup kitchen helping the homeless, and at that time I felt like I wanted to do more.
I have some resources and some talent, I decided to use them and start my own small charity group which is funded by my own online baking business, Danish’s Red Kitchen, that I set up when I was seven years old, and also from my earnings from brand collaborations and cooking demos.
“My followers sometimes contribute some funds as well so that I can help more people. My primary focus is to help poverty-stricken families, underprivileged students in rural areas, cancer-stricken children in local hospitals, the homeless and the needy.”
Danish was recently featured on the BBC programme My World for his efforts to provide families with basic necessities during the movement control order (MCO). He was honoured to be able to share his experience.
People are also learning new recipes from Danish on Instagram.
“When I started it, I just wanted to show people that if I can do it, so can they. I want to encourage other kids not to be afraid to try anything, and for parents to always give the chance to kids to explore. Cooking and baking are essential survival skills.
“Now, I feel proud every time my followers tag me with their kids’ photos, while they are cooking or baking and trying my recipes in their kitchen. I am happy that the knowledge is passed down and people benefit from it.”
He added: “I love creating my own recipes or my own version of any recipe that I see online to share with my followers.
“I spend my time tweaking and experimenting with various ingredients to make it less complicated, and I’ll make sure they are fail-proof recipes, and easy for everyone to follow, because for me, it’s important to share something that people can do or benefit from, rather than fancy complicated recipes.
“Alhamdulillah, I have shared a lot of my easy and fail-proof recipes that you can get and learn for free online.”
As for his own favourite food, he said: “I have so many recipes to choose from, my favourite food list has grown bigger. Then again, my mum’s food is always my favourite.”
He said he is a fan of Chef Gordon Ramsay and Chef Wan. However his parents are his greatest influences.
“They never fail to support me in anything that I do, and without them, I wouldn’t be here. As such, I really appreciate them, and I love them with all my heart, as they sacrificed everything for me, just to make sure I get everything I need, to do everything that I want to do.”
Danish follows a schedule in order to balance my time efficiently.
“Ultimately, education is always my first priority. When I am done with my revision and schoolwork, then I will do the others. From time to time, corporate brands or private or government agencies will hire me to do cooking demos for their events.
“I enjoy it. It’s a different environment. I get to interact closely with people and let them taste and enjoy my food.”