NIK MICHAEL IMRAN & SITI NADIAH SHAHRIL
CELEBRATING RAYA AND PARENTHOOD
Theirs is a sweet tale of a high school romance that sparked through the introduction of a mutual friend via MSN messenger. Fast forward a decade later, celebrity chef Nick Michael Imran and Siti Nadiah Shahril tied the knot and recently welcomed a beautiful princess named Rumi. Right after a beautiful photo shoot with KL Lifestyle magazine, we gathered intel on parenthood, raya and the couple’s favourite dishes to indulge during this festive season.
Nik Michael Imran is a popular celebrity chef, who owes his fame to the 2011 Masterchef Malaysia competition. His father is Nik Ezar, an experienced chef who stumbled upon the culinary world while studying in Brisbane, Australia. Having a father as a chef and equipped with an innate talent for cooking, Nik Michael was able to execute an intricate three-course meal by the time he was 13 years old. This prompted him to participate in the Masterchef Malaysia competition in 2011 and his career has skyrocketed since. Today, the celebrity chef juggles fatherhood, running a central kitchen, co-managing Butterkicap.com as well doing his fair share of appearances on TV.
FIRSTLY, TELL US HOW DID YOU BOTH MEET?
Nik: We met via a mutual friend when we were 15 years old. We were introduced through MSN messenger at the time. Subsequently, we met up and that was how I got to know her.
WHEN DID YOU GET MARRIED?
Nik: We got married four years ago, in 2015.
NADIAH, WHAT IS YOUR PASSION?
Nadiah: I’m not working at the moment, I’m a full-time mother, which is a job of its own.
NIK, TELL US ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD AND COOKING. WHEN DID YOU START COOKING?
I started cooking at a very young age because my father is a chef. He worked as a chef in Australia but he also had a degree in economics and accounting. So, when he returned to Malaysia, he joined the banking industry and cooked leisurely at home. That was how I picked up cooking – I used to be in the kitchen with him to help out when he had people and clients over for parties. I started off by setting the table when I was nine years old. Then, as time progressed, he allowed me to enter the kitchen more often until the point where he trusted me enough to make desserts while he entertained his friends. That was how it started. Eventually, I got more motivation to cook because I realised that girls like men who cook (laughs).
Nadiah: Well, I remember when we started dating, I was going to his house for a date and he actually cooked for me. It was spaghetti and crepes and it was okay.
DID YOU ATTEND CULINARY SCHOOL TO PURSUE COOKING?
No. I was taught by my dad and ever since I joined Masterchef, I took it very seriously and opened my own restaurant. I was under the mentorship of my head chef there. That was when I branched out from French and Italian cuisine to Japanese and Korean, then eventually diving deeper into South-East Asian, more specifically, Malaysian cuisine.
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO PARTICIPATE IN MASTERCHEF MALAYSIA 2011?
Just like everyone, I was a fan of the show. During the years 2007 and 2008, everyone was following the Masterchef competition rather diligently – it was a show that I frequently watched with my father. My dad is a very strict person and he pretty much had my future laid out for me – to pursue his footsteps and become a banker. When I came back from university one day, I revealed that there was a Masterchef audition and asked him for his opinion. To my surprise, he was on board for me to join. Before this, when I had casting calls for modelling and such, he never agreed. So, with my dad’s blessings, I participated in the Masterchef Malaysia 2011.
TELL US ABOUT BUTTERKICAP
Butterkicap is an initiative that I have with a couple of partners who basically remove the know-hows of the local cuisine. So, what we do is try to build a definitive guide to Malaysian food and as we do that, we remove the hesitations that come with it. We measure everything by the gramme and millilitre, making sure we’re precise for our readers. We’re not here to say this is how you cook ‘ayam masak merah’, for example. What we do is gather from the crowd the different kinds of ‘ayam masak merah’, look for similarities and define it for future generations, so we don’t loose recipes like this. It has been going very well so far. It’s the number two most-visited food website in the country already and we’re only two years in. It is a pretty fast rise; we’re at a juncture right now where we’re deciding how we can engage with the public more. The website portion is done well and the brand recognition is good too. We want to transition and eventually host a festival or event where we can conduct cooking classes.
WHERE DO YOU SEE BUTTERKICAP GOING?
I’m hoping it would be the guide to Malaysian food. We’re not here to do food reviews because we feel it is pretty saturated. Basically, I have always dreamed of having a book of my own with every single Malaysian recipe there is. That is a daunting task, but with a website like Butterkicap, it is something we can constantly update, resulting in a large, definitive guide.
HOW ABOUT LUNCH WITH THE NIKS?
It is one of the shows I did with my dad and it is being screened on RTM.
WHO IS YOUR FOOD ROLE MODEL?
Nik: That’s a tough one. Do you know, sayang? (turned to Nadiah)
Nadiah: Some Japanese chef? (giggles)
Nik: It’s very hard for me to label who my role model is. Of course, first and foremost, it is my dad because he taught me the fundamentals of cooking. Just like seasoning food, which varies according to moods, so does my role models. I’m always looking out for ways to better myself, my techniques as well as chefs who are constantly pushing the boundaries. So, my role model constantly changes.
DO YOU HAVE ANY JOINT PROJECTS?
Nik: Yeah, a child which is a lifelong project.
Nadiah: No, I’m focusing on raising our kid and more kids hopefully, soon.
WHO DOES THE DAILY COOKING AT HOME?
Nadiah: Sometimes he cooks for me and at other times I cook for him. We still stay with our parents so we don’t cook everyday but on the days that he comes home early and wants to eat something, I’ll cook for him. Likewise, on the days that I’ve been busy with the baby and haven’t had time to eat anything, he would cook for me.
CONGRATULATIONS ON THE BIRTH OF YOUR PRINCESS. WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING NEW PARENTS?
Nik: It is awesome.
Nadiah: It is the best feeling in the world. But it involves hard work. I don’t remember the last time I slept—I think the last time I slept was the night we were in the hospital, when I got induced and the nurses gave me painkillers. It was the best sleep ever.
WHO DO YOU LOOK TO FOR PARENTING ADVICE?
Nadiah: My mum, definitely.
WHAT DOES THE FIRST DAY OF RAYA LOOK LIKE IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?
Nik: We take turns celebrating Raya with our families. Last year, we were with her family. Because there are two Raya’s in a year, Raya Aidilfitri and Raya Haji, we alternate. This year, it would be the other way round. I always make it a point to salam our parents on Raya morning and apologise for any wrongdoings. That’s the one thing that my wife and I do. Then, the men will normally go for Raya prayers together and when we return, we will have a meal together.
DO YOU HAVE A KAMPUNG YOU TRAVEL TO FOR RAYA?
Nik: Her family is based all over Kuala Lumpur but my dad’s side of the family resides in Ipoh. We have yet to actually ‘balik kampung’. When we celebrated Raya with my father before, it would be at his home in Ampang. This year might be the first time we ‘balik kampung’ to Ipoh. It would be a nice experience for my wife to experience the feeling of going back to one’s hometown. That said, could also be a daunting experience for her because my father has 16 siblings. I have about 80 cousins.
NADIAH, YOU MARRIED INTO A FAMILY OF CHEFS. WHO DOES THE COOKING FOR HARI RAYA AIDILFITRI?
Nadiah: I go to my grandparents’ house as food is always in abundance there.
Nik: When we’re with her family, no, because there’s plenty of food. It’s rather funny on my side of the family because I try to help in the kitchen but all the aunties would turn me away. To them, men don’t belong in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter what I’ve achieved, when I’m in the kitchen with them, they treat me like a little boy. Even when they’re doing something wrong like cutting a chicken, they would refuse to take my advice because they say they have been doing it for about 20 years.
WHAT ARE YOUR MUST-HAVE DISHES DURING RAYA?
Nadiah: Lemang, lontong and some sambal. That’s perfect for me because I’m not a rendang girl.
Nik: The thing about rendang is, at every single house I go to, I am forced to say it’s the best rendang yet but in reality, they all taste the same. I love lontong as well, especially with extra sambal sotong and extra kuah kacang. The night before Raya, at Nadiah’s grandparents place, we would usually indulge in nasi Arab and it is something we all look forward to. It has tomato salsa and tender lamb.
THIS WILL BE THE FIRST RAYA WITH YOUR PRINCESS. ANY THEME FOR YOUR OUTFIT?
Nik: This is not my department, so you have to ask Nadiah.
Nadiah: Yes, we’re wearing green this year. I haven’t picked out a theme for the first day of Raya yet but green is the theme for my parents’ Raya open house.
WHAT ARE YOUR UPCOMING PROJECTS?
Nik: I just finished a show with RTM named the ‘Colours of Asia’. It’s the second show in my career that has nothing to do with food. So basically, I travelled across Asia in search of colours which landed me at so many places, with the last destination being Jaipur in time for the Holi festival. We covered colourful places or colourful events. I’m very enthusiastic about cycling at the moment. I took it up last year and I’m looking forward to participating in a lot of competitions this year. In July, I will be taking part in the RHB Lekas Highway Ride 2019. On top of that, I’m busy running a central kitchen that serves 12 outlets; that’s my day job.
Words by Hiranmayii Awli Mohanan
Photographer : Barathan Amuthan @ framesbybarathanamuthan
Videographer: Samuel Goh U-Wei @ samguw
Hairstylist & Make-Up: Derek Tan @ anagen
Venue: Impiana Hotel Kuala Lumpur
Wardrobe: Jovian Mandagie