Doing What You Love - Interview with Jaydon Mau, a Little Chef with a Heart Full of Passion

Do you remember how old you were when you first learned to cook? Maybe 18? Or 15? Many parents in Hong Kong are overprotective and never let their children enter the kitchen. However, we can also find young kids here who are really into cooking. 11-year-old Jaydon Mau is a little chef with a huge passion for cooking. Why does this young boy love cooking? When did his culinary journey begin? In this interview, Jaydon reveals how he has become an accomplished chef at such a young age, and why he loves cooking.

From scrambled eggs to 3-course meals
The 6th grader started cooking when he was just 8 years old. “I’ve had many opportunities to cook, particularly during the summer holidays when I travelled to Taiwan, the US and Canada with my family.” Jaydon’s parents have played an important role in encouraging him to explore his passion. Along with encouragement, developing a sense of responsibility is also crucial in nurturing a young chef. “My parents taught me how to use and responsibly handle knives, stoves, etc. Given the responsibility and trust, I slowly learned to cook simple meals starting with scrambled eggs and fried rice. Now I can cook a 3-course meal for 6 to 8 adults with confidence” Jaydon says.

The road to becoming a chef
The biggest driving force for Jaydon to keep cooking is the joy shared by his friends and family when they are enjoying meals he has prepared. “I enjoy cooking for my family and my parents’ friends. Last Christmas, I cooked a 3-course meal with salad, beef wellington and apple tart for 12 adults and 8 kids.” His supportive parents have been his biggest fans: “My mom’s favourite dish is my mashed potatoes, and my dad loves everything I cook.”

Jaydon’s favourite type of cuisine
When asked about his favourite type of cuisine, Jaydon said: “I enjoy all cuisines. I’m still in search of all flavours and styles.” Although he doesn’t have a favourite type of cuisine yet, he is very clear on the type of cuisine he loves cooking the most, “I enjoy cooking Chinese dishes the most, as it is what I eat all the time at home!”

Culinary challenges for the young chef
As Jaydon’s cooking skills have developed, he has also had the opportunity to tackle interesting challenges along his culinary journey. The latest challenge involved cooking for a large group of people. “My recent challenge was to cook for 40 adults with Chef Ricky Cheung at a restaurant on the Peak called 37 Steakhouse. We did a crossover where I cooked my Rosemary Chicken dish and he cooked steak. All the guests were very happy.”

Mastering complexity
Every chef has his signature dish as well as a dish he finds particularly challenging. “Beef Wellington is my biggest challenge so far, both from handling the whole cooking process to baking to optimal temperature and taste. But every time I’m doing better!”

The most important factors for cooking
What are the most important factors for Jaydon when he prepares his dishes? “There are 3 things I consider the most important: taste, temperature and presentation. I value taste over all the others. At times you may not have all the ingredients you need; you may only have some leftover food, or even just a can of spam. But if you can balance the taste, it can become a very delicious dish. Temperature helps to set the mood of the dish, and you will get a good feeling if the temperature of the food is just right. Presentation is like an art - if food is presented well, you will add value to the taste.”

Jaydon’s most important mentors
To become a successful chef at such a young age is not easy. Jaydon’s parents have been completely supportive at all times, and Jaydon’s appreciation is evident when he says “My parents are my most important mentors. They have given me lots of opportunities to explore my passion, and at the same time will not stop loving me and guiding me.”

Three most important qualities of a successful chef
When asked about the three most important qualities he believes he has to succeed as a chef, Jaydon talks about being creative, risk-taking, and resilient. “You need to be creative – be ready to learn and try new things. Be risk taking – don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. You may fail but you may also reach new levels if you succeed. Be resilient – there are always times you may feel defeated, but you should simply take it as a good lesson and do better next time.”

Fun, tasty, love
Jaydon uses 3 words to describe his dishes – fun, tasty, love. These are the feelings he wants people to feel when they eat his food. While it feels wonderful to know people enjoy his dishes, Jaydon hasn’t yet decided whether to become a professional chef in the future. “I simply enjoy the process of cooking and making people happy when they enjoy eating my food” says Jaydon. However, it seems that his dream of being a better chef will never go away. “I really want to travel around the world and learn about different cooking styles and ingredients so I can create more new dishes.”

Balancing cooking with other interests
As a pre-teen, Jaydon also has other hobbies besides cooking. It is not easy to juggle school work and various other hobbies with cooking, but Jaydon has his own way to handle it all: “Making use of every moment is how I manage my time. I am a golfer and I play golf every Saturday. I can now do zoom classes in between my sports training sessions, so I can make the most of my free time. I am also a rescue squad fan, and am particularly interested in firefighters. I watch all the RTHK TV shows about them; I can even name and list out the purposes of all the fire trucks and ambulances in Hong Kong.”

Jaydon Mau is clearly a young man who is whole-heartedly doing what he loves!

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