Pursuit of Happiness

Recipes from a father to his daughter

Aceto’s Varun Vijay Rao’s YouTube channel where he showcases his incredible culinary abilities leaves everyone drooling for more 

What started as a video catalogue for his daughter, so that she can remember her father’s cooking when she leaves home for higher education, is now a YouTube channel titled The Chefpreneur with more than 1,400 subscribers. Varun Vijay Rao, CPO of Aceto, delights his family and friends with his amazing culinary skills. Be it continental, pan-Asian, South Indian or North Indian cuisine, desserts, pantry staples, or even cocktails, The Chefpreneur can whip up an incredible variety of dishes. 

Despite having over 50,000 views for his YouTube channel, Rao is modest in his ambitions for it. “I just want the satisfaction of somebody seeing the videos, and using them. Cooking is a passion and I don’t intend to make money off of this. My videos are for my children,” he says.

Rao uses a simple phone camera held by his daughter to shoot his kitchen adventures. He believes in keeping everything real, with the uneven edges and bloopers, because he does not want to intimidate beginners with any Gordon Ramsay-like perfection. “People will try cooking something only if they think they can, so the videos have to encourage them to believe that,” he says. 

Inspired by his mother, Rao began trying his hand at cooking as a child. He started by experimenting with different ways to cook Maggi at the age of 12! He believes that food should be consumed with all five senses, and among them, taste and fragrance are primary. “When I hear the crackle of the fire on a barbecue or when I hear something being deep-fried on a rainy day, it excites me because I know that something good is cooking. Thus, sound is also a part of food. The Indian custom of eating with our hands allows us to experience food with our fifth sense—touch,” he says.

His love for cooking helps him in his professional life too. “Cooking is an art and science, and it requires the skill of organisation as well. When you cook, you need to have everything ready or mise en place as we call it in the chef’s world. The same parallels can be drawn for the corporate world,” says Rao, who has won many cooking competitions including CEO MasterChef in Bengaluru and an international one organised by Dubai-based Talent Networking Group that is endorsed by The Bellamy Brothers. He has even done live cooking shows for Amul India, the largest online cooking platform. 

Rao’s Instagram accounts (thechefpreneur55) are filled with pictures of food and he manages a Facebook group called The Recipe Exchange where he conducts live cooking sessions. His kids are now trying their hand at whipping up a dish or two, too. His wife excels in baking and has a venture of her own. Despite being surrounded by culinary experts, Rao still maintains that he would choose cooking over eating any day. “Nothing gives me more pleasure than watching other people enjoy the food that I make,” he says.