During lockdown, a five-year-old Bay of Plenty boy made a name for himself by creating his own YouTube cooking show, Luka’s Little Kitchen.

Luka McNickle and his family—parents Joel and Lynley, and little brother Arlo—are foundation members of Golden Sands Baptist Church in Papamoa and, prior to this, attended Manurewa Baptist Church in Auckland.

Inspired by an episode of Nadia’s Comfort Kitchen, filmed in Nadia Lim’s home kitchen, Luka decided he wanted to replicate the formula, with himself in the starring role.

The idea wasn’t totally out of the box. Creativity runs in the family. Joel and Lynley run a home-based business making and selling wooden puzzles, toys, stamps and other products. As parents, they believe in the importance of encouraging their children’s interests. And Luka was already a dab hand in the kitchen, too. 

“Pretty much as soon as he could stand on a chair to be up at the bench he has wanted to ‘help’ in the kitchen,” says Lynley. “At first it started with washing potatoes in the sink and sprinkling cheese on the pizza. As he has grown older, he has become more and more involved.”

Filmed by his dad, and wearing a snazzy matching cook’s hat and apron, Luka has made four videos at the time of writing, with more in the pipeline. The recipes are all family favourites, like chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, chocolate brownies and rocky road. The project has allowed Luka to indulge in his favourite parts of cooking—mixing ingredients and eating the end product! But there were some teething problems at first.

“I didn’t know how long it took to make the actual video. Sometimes Daddy had to do something again because it wasn’t right,” says Luka.

Lynley explains, “The first video had a lot of retakes, with Luka getting mixed up with things like baking powder and baking soda. He has got the hang of it now though and by his fourth video he didn’t want to do a practice run. It’s a matter of stopping him adding his own spin on things now… or the videos would be two hours long as he explains every detail of why he chooses particular ingredients.”

Joel is also a professional firefighter. A work colleague saw one of Luka’s videos on Facebook. Her partner works for the Te Puke Times, and so Luka’s Little Kitchen was soon featured in this and several sister publications. The budding chef was also interviewed during one of Golden Sands Baptist’s online church services. Word eventually made its way to Nadia Lim, who sent Luka a video saying how much she loved his shows. She subscribed to his YouTube channel and gave him a virtual ‘high five’, which delighted her young fan.

Luka’s friends have also given his videos the thumbs up. “They think they’re really cool,” he says.