It was a typical Friday afternoon when nine-year-old Leah Choy was teaching a small group of media members how to pipe hydrangeas and rosettes using Italian meringue buttercream.
“It’s like candle wax,” Choy exclaimed, frequently chiming in with tips and tricks such as “You’re basically writing a lowercase ‘E’” on how to pipe the perfect rosette.
Choy is definitely not your typical nine-year-old.
The young baker shot to fame and straight into the hearts of Malaysians with her inspiring story after she started baking and selling cupcakes at age four to raise funds for her younger sister Adele’s medical treatment.
Adele was diagnosed with microcephaly along with quadriplegia cerebral palsy when she was two months old.
In those five years, she has met her baking idol, US celebrity pastry chef Buddy Valastro, launched a baking book last December with MPH and her story has brought the Unicef young changemaker to Indonesia and Brunei.
Her book Chef Leah with a Big Heart was also recently picked up by the National Library of Malaysia.
“They recently ordered 507 copies of her book to be made available in all public libraries in the country including East Malaysia.
“It’s a big achievement for her. To have your book and story shared among kids in school is something amazing,” said Leah’s mum Tay Mei Yean.
The book has been bought by readers in Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, UK, US, Switzerland and India.
“Ever since her book came out, she does more talks and workshops rather than selling her cupcakes.
“Being in Melaka makes it quite hard to deliver the orders that mainly come from the Klang Valley,” said Tay.
Choy revealed she plans to write a second book following the success of her debut cookbook.
“I plan to write with my grandmother. Because my grandmother is Nyonya so I want to cook what she cooks at home and the things we eat at home — she’s the one who taught me how to cook.
“At first I didn’t cook so much, I ate more,” said Choy whose signature dishes include char kway teow, and different types of soup for her sister.
Since moving to a farmhouse in Melaka where there is more room to grow vegetables, Choy has been adopting farm to the table lifestyle with ease, cooking what they grow and preparing meals over charcoal.
Her mum went back to work in 2017, swapping roles with dad Choy Chan Mun who is now a full-time stay-at-home father.
The family used to travel frequently to the US for Adele’s medical treatment but after she had her first seizure last August, they were advised against travelling on planes.
The family now carries out the programme at home and gets help from a therapy centre in Seremban.
Choy, who is homeschooled, plans to attend a culinary school for teens and pursue culinary arts and farming in university.
Asked how she feels achieving so much at such a young age, Choy replied, “I feel like a normal kid but sometimes I feel like sleeping the whole day after an entire day of baking.”
“At the end of the day, she is very conscious about why she bakes, it’s never about the fame.
“We are glad she’s very grounded, she’s not here to be a spokesperson for a product.
“The biggest reason is for her sister and Leah wants to continue to inspire children and adults to do good,” her mum said.
Leah’s story touched the hearts of so many that RHB has dedicated her efforts in a video for Chinese New Year this year titled Heart Baker. The video can is featured below:
The video was created by FCB Kuala Lumpur and is the 11 th edition
in RHB Bank’s Awakening the Challenger Within campaign.
In 2015, Leah also became the youngest recipient of the coveted Tuanku Bainun Young Changemakers Award, which was bestowed to her as a commendation for the remarkable progress she has made for her and her sister Adele’s lives.
Today, Adele has outlived doctors’ expectations and continues to receive
treatment in the country, while Leah continues her fundraising endeavour, which has led to her launching her very first children’s cookbook.
The film takes viewers back to a time when Leah had just started her baking journey, and it unravels the heartfelt motivation behind her incredible display of perseverance despite having to learn baking from scratch and failing multiple times in the beginning.
Abdul Sani Abdul Murad, Chief Marketing Officer at RHB Group, said, “At RHB, we believe that success comes from not giving up on what we truly hold dear to our hearts. Although Leah is still young, her challenger spirit has demonstrated that progress can happen when we wear our hearts on our sleeves and allow love to guide our actions and be our motivation. She is a true testament that age and size are no barriers when it comes to
supporting the people we love, and that’s why her story encapsulates our brand belief so perfectly.”
Meanwhile, Wang Ie Tjer, FCB KL’s Creative Director said, “Creating this film was truly one of the highlights of our year. It’s such a powerful story about family love, and most importantly, it is real.
During the shoot, the team got to witness first-hand the genuine love and
adoration that Leah, Adele and their parents have for one another. Even though she is young, Leah was just brimming with love, and she definitely brought along her unique brand of joy and positivity to the set. Leah was also more than happy to lend a helping hand during the filming, especially when baking was involved. It’s no wonder that she is affectionately known as Chef Leah with a Big Heart.”
“When we learned about Leah, we knew we had to do her story proud and tell it in a way that would inspire Malaysians. That’s why we wanted this film to be more than just about a young girl excelling in her passion. Because ultimately, it’s about the deep, unconditional love shared between two sisters that has placed the both of them on the path of progress together,” Ong Shi Ping, FCB KL’s Co-Owner and Chief Creative Officer, added.