Kalidevan Murugaya – Vegan Celebrity Chef
Kalidevan Murugaya, better known as Chef Dave from PB Health or Vegan Celebrity Chef on social media, shares his vegan journey.
What do you do?
I am the executive chef and director of food and beverage for Chef Dave’s PB Healthy kitchen. It’s a social enterprise based in Malaysia dedicated to improving people’s health by making it EASY to transit to a plant-based diet. Apart from that, I’m also a content creator for the Chef Dave Vegan Journey platform dedicated to advocating a vegan lifestyle. I also raise awareness of animal rights through social media content surrounding vegan food, life and travel.
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How did you get into the industry?
I was inspired by grandma and mum. As young as five years old, I was busy helping them in the kitchen. After my SPM, I wish to be professionally trained and went to culinary school. That is how everything started. I trained in culinary school, did my Diploma in Hospitality Management (Food Service) at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, Kampar Perak. I furthered my studies at Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool UK. I completed my bachelor degree in tourism, leisure and hospitality management. I completed my MBA from Trinity Saint David University, Wales, in 2018 while working as a chef here in Kuala Lumpur. I recently completed my vegan cooking diploma with the Centre of Excellence, UK and currently doing a Plant-Based Nutrition Diploma with the same school.
Share with us a story from behind the scenes.
I have worked with prestigious companies such as the Shangri-la group of hotels and resorts and Disney cruises. It helped train me to be a professional chef working under experienced chefs from different expertise and backgrounds. I got the opportunity to work with executive chefs and Michelin-star chefs from different parts of the world. Besides, I got experience working with colleagues from more than 60 countries, especially when I was working on a cruise.
About 18 months, I left the cruise industry due to the pandemic and, at the same time, become vegan. Ever since, I have been creating content on my social media to create awareness about the plant-based lifestyle in Malaysia. By God grace, to date, we have more than 300 000 Malaysians and South East Asians, mainly from Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia, supporting our work.
What’s food memory from your childhood or travels that stands out?
Childhood memory about food or travel doesn’t have much as we grow up in a small town called Jementah in Johor. The only exciting day would be Sunday, where mum would cook some good food since it’s her day off and brought us to the night market where we could get to buy apam balik, tau fu fa in brown sugar syrup. Whenever there was a school holiday, especially year-end, we could visit our cousins in Klang for a week or two if we are lucky.
What’s the best/ worst part of Kalidevan Murugaya’s job?
The best part of the job is doing what you are really passionate about, being able to try all sorts of food, and being able to travel to a different part of the world.
The worst part is when people holiday and spend time with their family, but you have to work for long hours.
What’s your favourite food and beverage pairing?
Mee goreng Mamak and Teh Tarik.
The perfect day off would be…
Going to the market and buy ingredients that you wish to cook for family and to cook together with them to enjoy that food. Nothing beats bonding with family and food.
What does Kalidevan Murugaya do for fun?
Try something that I never cooked before and force my friends and family to eat and let me know how it tastes.
What’s something you’d like customers to know about PB Health?
We are happy to offer Malaysians a chance to order their plant-based food and worry less about their health issues. Besides, it is also an opportunity for us to educate the public on how simple it is to transform our health through food. The amount of time we spend to produce a whole food plant-based version of Malaysian food is crazy compared to producing any other ordinary Malaysian food. However, we truly feel it’s worth doing because we see amazing results in how this food transforms people’s health.
We see this beyond a food business. We see this as a form of service that we could help our people.
How has the pandemic changed you, your perspective or the way you operate?
Unfortunately, early last year my stand as a chef on the Disney cruise line came to an end with the arrival of COVID-19. The loss of my job was painful, but I chose to channel my passion by posting vegan recipes on my YouTube channel and social media.
After a year of content creation, I realised my work had grown into not only content creating but many other opportunities and roles. Today I have a food business and managing my team to serve hundreds of plant-based meals in Klang valley.
At the same time, we too started our online plant-based cooking academy because we realised many of my audience really loved to cook and wished to learn more. Still, there was no proper channel to equip them with cooking techniques and skills. Most of the recipe videos can provide them with a recipe but can’t make them a good cook that equips them with cooking techniques. I realised they always lacked confidence in technical cooking skills. So I decided to start this academy to build their confidence while preparing them with all the necessary knowledge to be better cooks.
What’s your view on the plant-based scene in KL?
It has definitely grown a lot, I believe, compared to years ago. Today, we can easily find plant-based restaurants and cafés. There are so many apps, which are helpful such as Happy Cow, Go Veggie, Kind Meals and so on. During this pandemic, many people ordered food online. You can even find plant-based options easily on Grab Food, Food Panda and the recently launched vegan/vegetarian only food ordering app Zesty Clickz.
How has the pandemic changed you as a person?
Personally, I became more grateful for things and opportunities I got as I know this is not an easy season for many in life. I learned to appreciate each opportunity, support and love from family, friends and community as a content creator and chef.
How has the pandemic changed you as a chef?
I never imagined that I would be doing content for social media. All my life, I have been busy in the kitchen cooking for hotel guests. Today I’m doing a lot of work on social media to share my journey as a vegan. I would say it is a totally different game in my career. However, I really enjoy what I am doing and hope all the work benefits the community.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
Personally, I wish to improve my health. Despite cooking healthy food for my clients, I don’t really have good eating habits. It is better to be cautious than sorry later.