Cover Kalidevan Murugaya a.k.a. Chef Dave (Photo: @chefdave_veganjourney/Instagram)

As a vegan himself, this chef is promoting plant-based diets to Malaysians

It all started with a Facebook video in 2019. Kalidevan Murugaya, or popularly known as Chef Dave, was going through his social media when he stumbled on a link that claimed to expose cruel practices the egg and dairy industries.

Curious, Chef Dave clicked on it, revealing a video that showed how animals were mistreated in the making of common food products. It shook him to his core.

“At first, I didn’t really want to believe what I was watching was the truth. I tried to do more studies online, watching different documentaries and reading different studies. In the end, I realised that such practices were considered normal in animal agriculture. I was shocked and upset but had no idea what I could do,” says Chef Dave, 29, in an email interview.

Related: Sustainable Sunday: How To Start A Plant-Based Diet

Continuing his research, he discovered another video by the YouTuber Arvind Animal Activist, which offers insights into why people should go vegan. Inspired, he decided to go on a plant-based diet.

But he also wanted to inspire others too, which was how he started documenting his vegan journey through social media. Today, his YouTube channel ChefDave Vegan Journey has over 65,000 subscribers, while his Facebook page has 225,000 followers.

“I felt that sharing my journey might inspire others to go vegan too. Or at least I could educate the general public about the vegan lifestyle through lifestyle sharing, recipes and vlogs,” says Chef Dave, who was born in Sibu, Sarawak but grew up in Jementah, Johor.

See also: The Ultimate Guide To Vegetarian Fine Dining In Malaysia

To start going vegan was not that difficult for me. I felt it was something worthy that I had to do. So I just took it as a challenge.

At the age of 5, Chef Dave was already helping his mother and grandmother in the kitchen. He would go on to attain a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management from Liverpool John Moore’s University in the UK. He worked as a chef in Kuala Lumpur while completing his MBA from Trinity Saint David University, Wales in 2018.

He then cut his teeth on a Disney Cruise Line, where he was until the pandemic halted the leisure cruise industry.

Related: Asian Vegan Food: 12 Instagram Accounts To Follow For The Best Recipes

In January 2020, he founded ChefDave Vegan Journey, a social enterprise advocating for vegan lifestyles and animal rights. Chef Dave is also a founding member of social enterprise PBHealth and the founder of D’Vegan Academy, which is dedicated to equipping Malaysian chefs with the knowledge and skills to create plant-based cuisine.

Currently, he’s on a mission: To vegan-ise Malaysian foods, and show how their vegan equivalents can be just as delicious. His YouTube channel carries recipes for plant-based versions of nasi goreng Cina, nyonya laksa, tosaiteh tarik and other local favourites.

See also: Review: Lauk Pauk In REX KL Goes Plant-Based

“I've made over 100 recipes on YouTube, and over 150 recipes on my Facebook page in the past one and a half years,” says Chef Dave, whose favourite Malaysian food is mee goreng mamak; his vegan recipe for this went viral on Facebook, garnering about 1.6 million views so far. A main draw of his YouTube channel is that Chef Dave is multilingual—he speaks English, Malay, Tamil, and even Mandarin.

“It's actually not that challenging turning a non-vegan food into vegan. In fact, many Malaysian foods by default are vegan because that’s how our ancestors used to enjoy their food. Back in day, they didn’t eat meat every day to get their protein, and they lived healthy and long lives.” 

Above Chef Dave's Mee Mamak Goreng recipe

What advice would he give to people considering going vegan? "Ask yourself what is your big why. Why do you want to be a vegan? If you understand and are clear about your intention, it will drive you to continue your journey, even during times you feel like giving up,” he says.

“Across history, humans have protested against sexism, racism, and so on. This is what makes humanity progress. Unfortunately, animals cannot protest against what is being done to them. Why don’t we do it together to make this world a better place? Be a voice for the animals and stand in solidarity with them,” asserts Chef Dave.

See also: Benjamin Swan Of Sustenir Agriculture Is Leading The Sustainable Food Revolution