The 85-year-old Iranian immigrant home cook has over 800,000 views on social media


Traditional dishes have been passed down from generation to generation and prepared with heart. This is because none of Nana Yousif’s recipes have ever been written down. She started cooking at 18 and is self-taught.

Today, thousands of people watch it on various social networks.

“On YouTube we have 260,000 subscribers and on Tik Tok we have 537,000 subscribers,” said Dina Ibrahim, Nana’s granddaughter. “Instagram actually just took off and we have about 64,000 followers.”

Yousif loves watching YouTube cooking videos from around the world. In September 2021, her 21-year-old granddaughter saw this and had an idea for a show called Nana’s kitchen.

“So I slept at Nana’s house and the next day we spent the whole day filming her favorite food,” Ibrahim said. “I think the first one we made was an Iraqi dish with stuffed zucchini.”

New videos are recorded in Nana’s kitchen when her health permits because some days her ankles are too painful to stand for long. Ibrahim is a final year university student majoring in psychology with a double minor in business and entrepreneurship. Now she has become Nana’s kitchen producer, cameraman and editor.

“My camera skills, I feel like they got really nice,” she said. “My siblings like to tease me and they say, oh your hand is shaking here and there and criticizing me but I think I’m doing pretty well now.”

She says that Nana is fast in the kitchen and she and her cousin have to keep up and make sure none of the cooking steps are missed for the viewers. And in most cases, they have to guess the measurements.

“Sometimes while we’re going up we’re like okay, it’s a tablespoon, and then we watch the video and we’re like okay, it looks like a tablespoon,” Ibrahim said. “Basically everything she does comes from the heart and from her own knowledge.”

Nana has lived in Calgary for over 20 years. Her mother tongue is Turkish and she speaks little English but says many people like her recipes.

“Everyone said it was good, everyone,” she said. “(I cook for people from) Iraq, Iran (and they say) oh, Nana’s cooking, good!”

Nana has lots of family in Calgary and Canada and more all over the world watching the videos to try and recreate her dishes wherever they are.

“They really miss Nana’s cooking,” Ibrahim said. “Nana is old, she can’t travel and obviously traveling at the moment is very difficult so (the shows are) really good for them but they say even if they are successful it’s not like Nanas.”

Nana will continue to make videos posted on social media, but her granddaughter has bigger plans.

“Maybe if Nana could have her own cooking show in the future, that would be amazing,” Ibrahim said. “Because you don’t see a lot of old grandmas showing their traditions on TV, that would be really nice, but I feel like we’re still a long way from that.”

Learn more about Nana’s cooking here.


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