From Crookes to Colombia - Sheffield Masterchef star hosts cookalongs for people around the world
A Sheffield contestant on Masterchef UK 2020 is offering regular cooking classes with his 10-year-old daughter – and has even won a world record for the venture.
As well as competing in the 2020 series of Masterchef UK, Ecclesall-based cook Raheel Mirza is also a Guinness World Record holder.
He achieved the record in February of this year when he orchestrated 532 people cooking online simultaneously from his home – eclipsing the previous record three-fold.
Now, him and daughter Isla, aged 10, are offering regular ‘Cookalong Live’ sessions, where people from around the city and beyond can join in and learn to cook a range of South Asian-inspired meals from a Masterchef.
People have joined in from as far away as Colombia.
Raheel said: "I started doing the live cookalongs with my daughter Isla back in March just before the first lockdown – which seems like an age ago – following my appearance on Masterchef on TV.
"It started with some local residents in the S11 area, Marsh House Road, there were five, seven, eight of us. And it has gone from there to now, where it has become my full-time career."
Raheel and Isla host the sessions from their home weekly, every Friday and Saturday, and have seen the turnout increase to up to 200 people.
They have even hosted charity experiences, raising money for the NHS and other vital groups, as well as for schools.
Raheel says he started as a ‘regular home cook’ and worked in learning and development, but now he is able to combine his passions by helping people to cook the food of his heritage: Pakistani cuisine.
He said: “I have never been a chef by trade, my background is senior learning and development, so I have combined my passion for training and coaching with cooking, so when I went on Masterchef I was your regular home cook, self-taught.
“I guess it started when I got married because myself and my wife used to do challenges for each other – little three course meals and stuff like that. Back in the day when we still had time for a bit of romance before we had children! So that is where it started.”
The cooking shows featured on the One Show on BBC after Raheel and Isla’s world record – but Raheel is already well-versed in British television following his Masterchef appearance, and he even competed on Countdown in 2010.
He said: “Going on Masterchef came from my competitive nature.
"I think a lot of people go on there to see how good their food actually is in the professional life, with Jon and Gregg in comparison to family and friends who just say, ‘yeah it’s great’.
The cookalongs are ‘for everyone’, whatever ability and age, and has even become a bit of a ‘social event’ for regulars on a weekend.
You can book a ticket for one of the events online via Eventbrite, and all you need to do is buy the listed ingredients and log on – and Raheel and Isla will walk you through the recipe step-by-step.
Raheel hopes that it will last after lockdown, and believes the hands-on nature of the sessions is what stands it apart and makes it so popular.
He said: "The youngest we have had get involved, obviously with parents, was three, and the oldest we have had is someone in their 90s.
"We have had the whole range, it is not limited to age, gender, religion, culture, it is open to everyone really.
"I think that is what everyone has enjoyed. Because of my background in management and development I am really aware and mindful of people’s different needs and pace, and I repeat steps to make sure everyone gets through it.
"I think that is the difference between YouTube and what I am doing, that you can have live step-by-step questions.
"It is so social now that people are saying it is a social event more than just learning how to cook now.
"We do bake-offs as well, with cakes and pies. The opportunities are endless and I just hope it lasts after lockdown, which I think it will now.”
Raheel is originally from Nottingham but has “really enjoyed” living in Sheffield for the past seven years.
His and Isla’s cooking classes have gone way beyond Sheffield and Nottingham, though, and regularly has people tune in from around Europe, and even America.
The father-daughter team also had a self-published limited edition cookbook on sale over Christmas, helping people to cook the delicious food on offer in their events.
Raheel added: “Last year before Christmas we self-published a cook book, ‘Sugar Spice and Stockpile’. We only had 300 limited edition available so we didn’t know how it would go but they sold out as Christmas presents over night really. The book will be on sale again in summer.”
The next Cookalong Live’ is this Friday, March 12, where Raheel and Isla will talk you through cooking a lamb or aubergine Rogan Josh curry.
Tickets can be bought from www.eventbrite.co.uk, or visit @raheelmirzacooking for more information.