A golden anniversary celebration is a special occasion and the couple treated their 100 guests to a sumptuous meal. It was a good thing they had a good cook in the family, and the couple entrusted the task of roasting three legs of lambs to their grand-nephew.

This cook has made many scrumptious meals for them, and they have all enjoyed his offerings, from briyani to paella to pasta. Cooking for his grand-aunt’s 50th anniversary celebration was certainly a proud moment for Ian Peter Anthony, especially because he was only 11 at that time.

Three weeks ago, Ian and his sister Ivy Marie baked the 500 pieces of fruit cake guests enjoyed at his uncle’s wedding.

Ian Peter Anthony (right) and his sister Ivy Marie love to cook and bake during their free time. Photo: Sam Tham/Star Publication

Started With Egg Sandwich

He grew up surrounded by ardent cooks. His grandfather Anthonysamy Lourdesamy, 72, still cooks and his late father, Paul Raj, underwent culinary training at the National Productivity Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

“Granddad is an excellent cook. His curries are simply the best. Since he loves to cook, we jokingly call him Gordon Ramasamy, after Chef Gordon Ramsay,” jokes Ian.

He also learns to cook from his mother, Priscilly Edison, grandmother Mercy Edison and other elderly relatives. But it took an emergency of sorts for Ian to be fully initiated into the kitchen.

Cooking and slicing ingredients teaches kids how to be focused and patient.

His mother was hosting a Christmas carolling gathering one evening but was stranded in heavy traffic.

“Mum was stuck in a terrible jam and couldn’t reach home in time to prepare snacks. We had a new helper who didn’t know how to cook.

“Over the phone, Mum guided me how to make egg sandwiches and mix cold drinks,” recalls Ian.

Edison chips in: “It was stressful, leaving a child in charge of the kitchen. Unsure if Ian’s sandwiches would turn out right, I bought savoury items as back-up. Thankfully, his snacks tasted good. Everyone wiped out the sandwiches instead of the bakery items.”

Ian was only six then and still in kindergarten, but he decided that cooking was really as simple as A-B-C.

He has not looked back since then. Driven by his passion for cooking and encouraged by his family, Ian has enjoyed experimenting and exploring in his mother’s kitchen,

The Form One student now has a huge repertoire of specialty dishes. They include mouth-watering treats like rendang, nasi lemak, sambal udang and Western spreads like pasta, savoury pies and paella. He can make cookies, cakes as well as Indian crunchy treats like omapodi, banana chips and chippi.

“Cooking is fun and keeps me entertained. Between cooking and homework, I’d gladly choose the former,” says the friendly student of SM USJ12 in Subang Jaya, Selangor.

Cooking Inspirations

Cookbooks and the Internet open up the culinary world to Ian, allowing him to learn from various sources.- Sheela Chandran/The Star

The Internet and media are Ian’s conduit to the big culinary world out there in this food-obssessed age. He devours TV cooking programmes and social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to learn about food. He learns from such varied sources, so much so his favourite food blogger is a Ukrainian.

“For quick and simple recipes, I turn to food blogger Natasha Kravchuk’s website (natasha’skitch­ en.com), and some other cooking websites. I enjoy watching British cook Jamie Oliver’s TV shows as he makes cooking fun and relaxed,” says Ian, who also likes to watch TV shows hosted by homegrown talents like Chef Ismail, Chef Wan, Sherson Lian and Michael Imran.

But there are times when Ian’s dishes don’t turn out to his liking. Edison is happy her son takes everything in his stride.

“There are times when he is overly confident and doesn’t worry about the outcome. But he is persistent and determined to get it right the next time around. This is a positive quality that I admire in my son,” says the proud mother.

Ian certainly doesn’t think anyone is too young to dabble with cooking.

“With proper guidance and encouragement, I believe children can learn how to cook,” he says,

Edison is pleased with her children’s interest in cooking. She believes mothers should encourage children to cook at a younger age.

“I think parents can be stressed when their children prepare meals in the kitchen. But with proper supervision and encouragement, children can cook up a storm in the kitchen. Even if they cut their fingers, parents shouldn’t be too scared. It’s all part of the learning curve. After all, it’s about building confidence and growing up.”

Ian shares his tip of cooking well.

“It boils down to organisation, really. You need a good recipe, the right ingredients and patience to prepare the dish. After listing the items needed, Mum and I go grocery shopping,” says Ian, who prefers to cook Western food more than Asian dishes.

Edison, a claims manager in an insurance firm, is thankful her son is just as organised when it comes to his studies too.

“He is very detailed and plans his time wisely. The ground rule is Ian must revise and complete his homework before venturing on his culinary adventures. This ruling has worked well in our house and he keeps a good balance between studies and cooking,” says Edison who encourages her son to cook during weekends.

In between his studies and cooking, Ian also potters around the garden. He is inspired to grow his own herbs and vegetables, inspired by his his idol, Oliver.

Ian has also started a herb and vegetable garden, so he’d have his own source of fresh ingredients, just like his idol Jamie Oliver.

“On Jamie At Home, Jamie uses different ingredients grown in his garden. I think it’s a great idea. I’ve been growing kangkung, rosemary, ginger, curry leaves, serai, dill and moringa,” says Ian, who intends to grow more organic vegetables like okra and tomatoes.

When asked if he prefers cooking or baking, Ian says, “Definitely cooking as I can try out different ingredients and create fusion food. Baking involves precision and it takes too long to see the end result. Ivy has more patience and bakes excellent cakes, muffins and cupcakes.”

The teenager’s future plans are of course centred on cooking.

“I’d like to operate a food truck serving burgers, sliders, pizzas and sandwiches. Food trucks are convenient as I can drive to different places and introduce my cuisine to many foodies.”