Most schoolboys spend their pocket money on electronic gadgets and their spare time engrossed in video games but you’re more likely to find Terence (TJ) Dobson leafing through a homewares catalogue or whipping up his favourite dish, a lobster ravioli.
The 13-year-old from Southgate is obsessed with everything to do with cooking and confesses to spending his cash on “knife sharpeners, chopping boards and plates”.
Now, eager to share his passion, the ambitious teenager is launching a series of Cook With Me films aimed at getting young people into the kitchen and eating healthily.
Dusting off his hands after cooking a full English breakfast for his family, TJ says: “At four I was always in the kitchen passing my mum ingredients or adding the sugar. I’d always put in too much as that’s how I liked things, nice and sweet.
“At seven, I begged my mum to let me cook a full roast for Christmas. At first she said I was too young, but I kept pleading and said I needed to do it and she gave in.
“It came out really well and after that I thought I had to keep on cooking and realised it was my goal to be a chef.”
Keen to show off his culinary skills, he secretly entered Junior MasterChef in 2012, only telling mum, Marilyn Barrett at the last minute. TJ impressed presenters John Torode and Donal Skein with his duck dish and chocolate creme brulee in the final.
Although he wasn’t crowned champion, TJ says: “I picked up so many skills and it was a real boost for me and kick-started my journey into cooking.”
His winning team also appeared on ITV’s The Munch Box in 2013.
He says he also had massive support from his headteacher, Andy Griffiths at Brunswick Park School in Southgate, who arranged for him to be mentored by the head chef at celebrity favourite Gilgamesh, a pan-Asian restaurant in Camden. Mr Griffiths also invited TJ, now a pupil at Ashmole Academy, back to his former primary school to film his cooking series, which includes lessons on creating a beef Wellington and spinach and cheese soufflé.
Speaking about where the idea came from, TJ says: “I saw Jamie Oliver going round doing healthy eating for young children and that was a huge inspiration to me. I want to get young children into the kitchen.”
The motivated youngster, who is co-chair of the Mayor of London’s Youth Board, is already on the path to success. His recipe for chicken wings is on Ashmole’s curriculum for GCSE pupils and he writes a regular recipe column for care organisation Sevacare. And he also has his sights set on opening a chef school for people who, like him, are too young to undertake traditional training, but have discovered a passion for food at an early age.
“As soon as I leave school I want to set up a cookery school. Catering schools start at the age of 16, which I think sets them back. I think it should be younger.
“I also hope to open a restaurant and have my own television series one day.”
Watch out world!
http://tjdobson.netCook With Me is available to download from September 1 at tjdobson.net