Chef Sanjay Thumma, also known as the “VahChef,” has a genuine enthusiasm for the food he cooks and a positive attitude that’s led to him having one of the most popular cooking channels on YouTube with over 100 million views. When he’s not whipping up easy-to-follow traditional Indian dishes, he also shows us how to create healthy alternatives as part of the AAPI’s “Be Fit, Be Cool” campaign which raises childhood obesity awareness.
But it’s not just food that the VahChef is passionate about. Sanjay has been involved with the Foundation For Children In Need for the past 12 years. Founded by Dr. Geetha Yeruva and Tom Chitta, the foundation provides a sponsorship program for children and college students struggling to continue their education in India. The foundation also provides health care and medicine to people living in rural villages, as well as care for the elderly.
With his involvement with the Foundation For Children In Need and “Be Fit, Be Cool,” he’s truly cooking for positive change. Sanjay is my absolute favorite chef to watch on YouTube and I was excited to speak to him last week about both the foundation and his love for cooking.
How did you become involved with the Foundation For Children In Need?
Dr. Geetha and Tom were very old friends. They used to come to my restaurant and discuss ways to help children. In many organizations, the amount of money going to a child is a lot less than what is given because of adminstrative costs and what not. So they wanted to start a foundation where the child would benefit more from what is being given. I really liked what they were doing.
At first I just used to provide free food for their meetings, but when I came back to India and visited the schools, I saw the happiness of the children there. These children would have to struggle to come to school, and at the foundation they would be taught how important education is. I make yearly visits and I’m a soldier for them to raise funds and get sponsors for these children. You get so much happiness from being generous. I myself sponsor over 20 children. I get more excited by this than when people make my food!
Your YouTube channel is one of the most popular cooking channels in the world. What do you think the future holds for the VahRehVah TV show and YouTube channel?
When I first started, I wanted to do everything my way. I wanted to be in control of my show. But many channels wanted to control and do things their way. I agreed to do my show for a local TV channel that broadcasts in Telugu. After the first week we aired we got the highest ratings the channel had ever had in 7 years. I actually wanted to make changes, but the producers said no.
If the formula works!
Yes! I wanted to make it more exciting, but they said, “Don’t change a thing!”
Have you thought about doing a travel show? I think your audience would love to see you sampling street food or trying out other local cuisines.
I would love to do a road show. But these things can be so expensive to make. It’s possible to make money on YouTube, though. The thing is, so many shows out there do the same old recipes. I call it “burger cooking.” Many people want to open 2 or 3 packets and be finished. I want to do something different. I want to do authentic recipes. So we’ll see.
I’d definitely watch your road show! My last question: What is your favorite dish to make at home?
I’m Hyderabadi, so I love to make biryani at home. But I cook everyday for my show. So when people ask me what my favorite dish is, I tell them it’s the food in my pan. It’s whatever I’m going to eat next. It’s hot, it’s fresh and it’s sizzling.