Known popularly amongst his followers as ‘Vah Chef,' Sanjay Thumma has made a mark for himself doing what he enjoys doing the most: Cooking. He forayed into stardom with his online cooking website vahrehvah.com and channel ‘VahChef’ on YouTube. Since its inception in 2007, his channel has had more than 100 million hits. His uncomplicated and aesthetically well-presented culinary guidance and inputs have forged him a solid fan base, with most of his fan base consisting of Indian expatriates, homemakers and beginners trying to learn how to cook.
As his father worked in BHEL, Sanjay resided in a township in Hyderabad. To contain his mischievous nature, his mother used to allot him kitchen duties such as grinding spices and so on. The influence his mother had on his passion for cooking simply cannot be stressed upon enough as her allowing him to enquire about stuff about cooking and partake in the preparation of meals meant that the cornerstone on which his success as a chef would later be based on would be laid. He honed his skills further by pursuing and acquiring a graduation degree in ‘Hotel Management’ from the Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition Department, the Institute of Hotel Management, Hyderabad (IHM).
Sanjay began his career by working for various ITC-owned hotels in Gurgaon, Jaipur, Chennai and Agra. Later on, he migrated to Chicago in the United States to start his restaurant, Sizzle India. After managing to open four restaurants in about seven years, he sold his chain of restaurants off and undertook a two-year hiatus.
The concept of vahrehvah.com came to being when Sanjay started getting requests for recipes from his family members and had to go through a tedious process repeating the cooking again and again. Therefore, in September 2007, he set up a studio in Chicago and started recording 150 of his earliest recipes, which he duly went ahead and posted on YouTube. He started gaining popularity and soon became the darling of audiences with each video gained response and in some cases, more than a million views. After all the acclaim he received from his ventures on YouTube, he launched his vahrevah.com and returned to his hometown, Hyderabad, where he is currently residing. He was quoted saying, “A restaurant can feed only a few hundred, my website feeds lakhs of them.”
It is a well-known fact that Sanjay’s videos are recorded and edited by his wife, Ragini. The videos are not overbearing as Sanjay adds a pinch of humor and takes his time to explain and demonstrate which ensures that they remain easy to follow. Besides strengthening an internet presence, he has replicated his success on the internet by co-hosting and judging a cookery show, ‘Vantintlo Wonders,’ which was aired on Telugu channel, Gemini TV. Recently, he has been hosting another culinary show, ‘Vahrehvah’, which is aired on Zee Telugu.
Till date, Sanjay has been awarded a gold medal in the All-India chef’s competition for culinary arts, and his nuance and accomplishments were acknowledged as he was recognized as ‘Noteworthy Newcomer’ at the Times Food Festival.