When it comes to food, most toddlers seek simplicity: bread, pasta, cereal, maybe fruit. But not Ilirian Kameraj. He prefers filet mignon, roasted potatoes and rack of lamb — and he cooks them, too.
Ilirian, who will be 3 in December, fell in love with baking when he was less than a year old. When one of his favorite YouTube channels, "Blippi," aired an episode where Lior the Baker showed little viewers how to make bread and other pastries, Ilirian toddled into the kitchen eager to learn.
Now, he's helping other people learn how to cook with his parent-run Instagram and TikTok.
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A post shared by Chef Ilirian Kameraj (@ilirian_cooks) on Oct 14, 2020 at 11:12am PDT
"We started with cupcakes, easy stuff," Ilarian's mom, Dorentina Kameraj, told TODAY Food. "Eventually he advanced to roasted chicken."
Despite her son's success in the kitchen, Kameraj didn't do it for social media, but just a routine activity to keep the little guy busy and happy. In March, after New York's stay-at-home orders inspired many more cooking days, Kameraj finally posted a video of she and Ilirian baking cupcakes on her personal Instagram. When friends saw the two-year-old impeccably cracking eggs, they urged Kameraj to create an account devoted to his cooking. In May, she started @ilirian_cooks on Instagram and, in October, an accompanying TikTok account. Ilirian now has over 30,000 followers on Instagram and over 346,000 on TikTok.
Just one month later, a video of Ilirian demonstrating how to make one of his favorite dishes — a whole-roasted chicken — had 1.5 million views.
"We've made it four times already. He likes to marinate it, he loves massaging it. And he loves putting all the stuff inside it," Kameraj said, adding that her son doesn't like "kid food" like mac and cheese.
Kameraj, who used to work as an assistant at a Montessori school, where kids get hands-on experience with food prep, tries to develop her son's kitchen skills but always makes sure safety comes first.
"I used to watch two-year-olds cut their own bananas with the plastic slicers; I saw what kids were capable of doing," she said. "Kids are capable of so much and lot of parents don’t allow kids to try stuff."
While Kameraj isn't yet comfortable with teaching her toddler to chop with a knife, she does integrate new tools when she sees him advancing with others. He began by using whisks then moved onto a hand-held mixer. He loves using a mallet and picking things up with tongs. While he used to pretend-chop by slamming his arms down, Kameraj recently taught Ilirian how to use a vegetable chopper, which she said has become his new obsession.
A post shared by Chef Ilirian Kameraj (@ilirian_cooks) on Nov 6, 2020 at 7:30am PST
"I showed him how to use it, and he loves slamming it," Kameraj said. "Now he has to use it always. I cant touch it — if he sees it out in the kitchen, he goes and gets it."
To ensure her tot's hands stay safe, Kameraj always stays with Ilarian as he does it, so he can just do the slamming part. Since he began cooking, she's made sure he knows to wash his hands frequently and never touch his mouth after handling raw meat.
"He understands a lot more now that he's getting older," she said, adding that he also coined his catchphrase: "Let's do this!"
For anyone who wants to cook like Ilirian, check out some of TODAY's favorite vegetable choppers to make dinner a little easier. Then all you'll need is your little chef's hat.