From her modeling days to working with big names like filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai in Hong Kong, Danielle Peita Graham shares her journey to rebranding herself as an all-round chef.
Danielle exudes an air of self-confidence that is so effortless that some feel intimidated when they approach her. With her commanding presence, she navigates through our photo shoot in elegant FENDI with ease and little direction.
Before our interview began and our first introductions were made, I knew we were in the presence of a food connoisseur. You can’t help but notice Danielle’s apparent love of food as she crawls over her bowl of Thai glass noodles to take away and converses casually about how much she loves spicy Thai food after spending time in Thailand for work and travel Has.
FENDI SS21 baguette & shirt.
Danielle was born in Kuala Lumpur to a Malaysian-Chinese mother and an Irish father. She grew up in Australia before returning to Asia – Hong Kong in particular – to establish herself as a successful model who graced numerous magazine covers. Perhaps her most famous time would be her Olay commercial. Others also remember her as Nurse Danielle starring Nicholas Tse and Stephen Fung in 2002, as well as the DJ Shadow music video Six Days, directed by Wong Kar-Wai.
Danielle shares her childhood memories growing up with parents who played a huge role in promoting her passion for who she is today. “I was exposed to cooking at a young age. I grew up in the kitchen helping both of my parents after school. My father taught me how to make mashed potatoes when I was eight years old and so did my mother; her famous fried rice, ”says Danielle with a smile.
Her childhood nostalgia has made her a firm believer in always preparing homemade meals for her family in Malaysia. To make sure they have the correct nutritional balance in their body, Dannielle has taken the responsibility to ensure that they are always eating healthy. “It is very important to me. The food we eat really sets the tone for who we are, ”says Danielle.
Her determination has managed to instill interest and remarkable culinary skills in her two young children. Ben, who is 11 years old, and Sophia, who is nine years old. It’s an extraordinary feat these days, especially when it’s harder for kids to break away from the many screens they are exposed to, and Danielle fully agrees.
FENDI SS21 Dress & Peekaboo ISeeU EastWest.
“Knowing how to cook is a life skill! It is survival! I am grateful that my two children are very interested in cooking, ”she says. Ben’s specialty is cooking steak, while Sophia recently “graduated” from a child’s knife to an adult knife, and this, says Danielle, brings her great maternal pride.
Going from a model to a chef wasn’t as difficult as she thought. Danielle says the shift was surprisingly natural to her. After collecting recipes she had developed since she was 18 while living alone in her Hong Kong apartment, as well as recipes passed down by her family, she finally took the leap of faith and published her first cookbook, On The Table, even at home in 2016.
“Being a mother during the pandemic is like being a teacher, referee and cook. As a woman, there are so many roles that we have to play all the time. “
The project with homemade, but restaurant-worthy recipes, which form the perfect fusion of East and West, has been a dream of hers since her youth. “I wanted to share my recipes in the hope that they would inspire others to cook and share their love with their friends and family. Food is love to me. There’s just no better way to show it. “
The cookbook has been an ongoing success since its debut. There have been several requests to replenish the shelves, particularly at the Kinokuniya bookstore in Suria KLCC, Malaysia as well as in Singapore, so of course we had to ask the obvious. Are you still working on a cookbook? “You know what? A lot of people have asked me that. I’ve written a lot of new recipes, so it’s definitely planned,” says Danielle.
To further establish her role as the culinary maven, Danielle also had an insatiable desire to introduce her own line of kitchenware. With a group of partners who support her vision, the aptly named Essential kitchen line “Danielle” was launched in Hong Kong in 2019 on her 40th birthday. However, it was not easy to start this new company.
There was a lot of back and forth in perfecting the line, which has now been expanded to include a wide range of high-quality knives made of German steel, cookware, cutting boards and a special parent and child knife set for family houses. Cooking moments.
“It was extremely important that the kitchen appliances were as authentic as possible. My name is on it and I use it too, ”says Danielle. With more products coming soon on her website and in stores, Danielle’s ultimate goal is to make life easier and cooking at home more enjoyable.
FENDI SS21 pants & shirt.
With the ongoing pandemic affecting all people in different ways, Danielle shares that juggling as a mom and tackling her burgeoning culinary career is an ongoing chore.
“I’m a pretty energetic person, of course, and I like the challenge of keeping myself occupied, but I find it difficult sometimes because there is only one of me! But I try my best, ”says Danielle.
“I love supporting local talent. I think it is very important, especially in these times, to shop with our farmers and fishermen. “
“Being a mother during the pandemic is like being a teacher, referee and cook. As a woman, there are so many different roles that we have to play all the time. “
One of the ways Danielle managed her and her children’s time during the lockdown was to engage with her On the Table at Home delivery initiative, which began and is ongoing during the first movement control ordinance in March 2020.
FENDI SS21 sandals & knitted overall.
The idea came about when one of her friends, Datin Dian Lee, suggested that she do it as a business. Letting her children help with chopping vegetables and with logistics proved fruitful not only for her family, but also for her local customers, as well as those from Singapore, the US and Europe who deliver home-cooked food from Danielle ordered their families in Kuala Lumpur.
“It felt really rewarding. The plot was so sweet and heartfelt that is why I keep saying that food is love. It’s a great way to show love and pamper your loved ones. “
With no plans to slow down anytime soon, Danielle now plans to start a YouTube channel with her recipes. At the moment it is vital for her to be able to help local businesses even though she will not be able to get to her usual markets during the lockdown. “I love supporting local talent. I think it is very important to buy from our farmers and fishermen, especially in these times, ”says Danielle.
The joy she finds when she gets fresh produce is indescribable. She tells me that she’s out on the market so regularly that everyone knows her and she enjoys special discounts. She even has her own “fish man” and her own “chicken lady” who keep her up to date with news about fresh products. “You know, I have them all on speed dial,” adds Danielle with a laugh.
Interview: Naseem Randhawa
Stylist: Nigel Lee
Photographer: Mickey Wong @ New Storyboards Photography
Makeup Artist: Cat Yong
Hairdresser: Ckay Liow
This story was first published in the February 2021 issue of Prestige Malaysia. To read the latest issue, get a copy at the nearest kiosk or subscribe to Magzter.