Daman Shrivastav and his young daughter Diya have been serving food to the needy all year. Recently, the dad-daughter duo began serving meals to Melbourne's Indigenous community and this weekend they plan to celebrate NAIDOC Week as well as Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.
“I love cooking,” says eight-year-old Diya Shrivastav, who runs online cooking shows and cooks free meals for vulnerable Melburnians along with her father Daman.
And this month, in the midst of coinciding Diwali and NAIDOC celebrations, the pair are making a particular effort to assist vulnerable Indigenous people in Melbourne, in collaboration with the Indigenous-run social enterprise Charcoal Lane.
"I really like cooking the food for them and its fun to meet all the Aboriginal people,” Diya tells SBS Punjabi.
- DD's Kitchen, which stands for Dad and Daughter Kitchens, is run by Daman and Diya Shrivastav
- They have provided over 400 meals per week in Melbourne to international students, homeless people and now to the indigenous community as well
- They are marking NAIDOC Week with a special celebration, coinciding with Diwali, the Indian festival of Lights.
Diya and her much-awarded father Daman have been cooking free meals at home since March this year, serving food to international students, the homeless, and even those in hotel quarantine.
"We have been cooking 400 meals from our home kitchen ever since the pandemic hit this year, and have been delivering those fresh meals within two hours of cooking," Mr Shrivastav says.
He says it was a conversation with Stephen Thorpe from Charcoal Lane that focussed his attention on the Indigenous community as well.
“Through my conversations I discovered the similarities between Indian culture and the culture of Australia’s First Nations People. We both believe in the cosmos, moon, and stars, to name a few things.”
One thing led to another and the dad-daughter duo decided to serve free meals to struggling members of the Indigenous community as well.
“They are the most vulnerable members of our society, so we thought it was only natural for us to feed them,” says Mr Shrivastav.
“For over six weeks now, we’ve been serving Sunday buffets at Perry St in Collingwood. We’re lucky that the Yarra City Council has given us space and a fully functional kitchen to serve our indigenous brothers and sisters.”
He says around 50 to 60 people come in person every Sunday for the food, and they end up taking home packs as well.
“Altogether we serve up about 300 meals every Sunday. We provide a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, which could be Indian, Western, Mediterranean – anything.”
They are having an extra special celebration during the weekend of NAIDOC Week, which also coincides with the Indian festival of lights, Diwali.
“Before we begin serving, we have a traditional smoking ceremony. This week we have other additions to celebrate the Indigenous community, and most importantly, Saturday marks Diwali, so we’ll be serving specially cooked Indian sweets on the day.”
Daman Shrivastav has a distinguished culinary background, having trained alongside Jamie Oliver at Westminster College in London, and going on to earn many accolades including World Master Chef 2017 awarded by the World Master Chefs Society in England.
“I was working in a reputed hotel in Baghdad during the Gulf War, and remember taking food to people hiding in underground shelters back then. When I look at Melbourne, I feel many people are suffering the same plight – although there is no bombing here, but their situation is the same as they’re forced to live in terrible conditions.”
Mr Shrivastav says his own personal experience in Melbourne in the early years has a lot to do with why he wants to help the homeless as much as possible.
“I have first-hand experience of being homeless - I experienced it during my family breakdown - so I know how it feels.”
More recently, he launched DD's Kitchen – which stands for Dad and Daughter Kitchens. Pairing with his daughter Diya, they first began holding online classes for their school community, which soon became a social media sensation.
So how did that come about?
“I like cooking," says Diya. "When my Dad comes home after work, I help him out in the kitchen.”
During the lockdown forced on Melbourne by the pandemic, their culinary adventures went to another level.
“I was doing online learning from home, and when I finished my learning I asked my Dad what could we make and he asked me to join him in cooking meals.”
“My favourite thing to cook is pavlova,” she says.
And the budding chef has this advice for children in the kitchen: "If you have a sharp knife, or if you are handling fire, you must take your parents permission.”
To hear the full interview with Diya and Daman Shrivastav, click on the audio icon above.
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