During the lockdown 10-year-old Jael Robinson did not give in to boredom or wiling away hours staring at a device or television. He kept his hands busy experimenting with recipes.
The pupil of the Raghunanan Road Government Primary school started cooking from the age of five after watching his mother Candice and stepfather John prepare meals. “I love cooking because I saw my mummy cooking and decided to help her and from there, I had a love for it,” he said. She helped him make cookies and other things. He recalled the first dish he cooked solo was sautéed vegetables but he added, “The first dishes I enjoyed cooking are desserts for example a trifle”.
When his sister was watching cake-making videos, he would also view and then try to make it. Jael said he used his phone to look for recipes and cooking classes, or cooking shows on television featuring children which he sometimes viewed. Last year Jael joined a cooking course run by his grandmother Donna Johnson which comprised Mexican, Italian, French, Chinese and local dishes as well as cakes and pastries. He told the Catholic News, “It was educational for me because I learned to cook many types of food for example Italian food: linguini, lasagna, bow tie pasta, Alfredo sauce. I enjoyed making Alfredo sauce. I also learned to make special cakes like trifle, chocolate fudge.”
Although having a bias would be natural for his grandmother, she said she has to be objective with participants in her classes. She instructs them but they have to gain hands-on experience and “get it right for themselves”. She saw Jael in action helping others and explaining concepts to older fellow participants who were having difficulty. He also received assistance when his short stature was a challenge. Johnson said Jael has “a definite flair” for cooking.
Asked if he prepared special dishes for occasions, he responded that on Mother’s Day he prepared pancakes, bacon and coffee. For lunch dishes at home, he “mostly” helped. “The best thing I prepared was a pineapple upside-down cake,” he said.
During the lockdown Jael experimented with dishes. Candice said, “There were no ongoing classes but being home allowed him the opportunity to experiment with dishes with his family so he was able to include his siblings in his cooking which he enjoyed.” Jael has two older and two younger siblings. His family inclusive of dad Afiba Robinson, is very proud of his culinary efforts and “even happier to taste whatever he offers as his dishes are always tasty,” Candice said.
John is sometimes the “guinea pig” tasting the dishes being prepared. She added, “Even his grandfather is behind him with this venture. He got him his very own chef uniform with his name on it”. Jael has told his family he would like to be a professional chef.