A chef who overcame a legal battle with the owner of a defunct motorway restaurant chain is celebrating publishing his book in honour of his son.
Matei Baran, executive head chef at the Salt Cove in Tynemouth, decided to write Big Chef Little Chef to encourage children to learn how to cook healthy meals and raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
Matei, who reached the quarter final of TV’s Master Chef: The Professionals in 2015, was inspired by his six-year-old son Armin, who suffers from cystic fibrosis.
But after being threatened with legal action by the Kuwaiti-based owner of the Little Chef brand ordering him to stop using Big Chef Little Chef, he changed the name to Big Chef Mini Chef and a last minute re-design and print went ahead.
And last Saturday, Matei launched the book at a special event at Seven Stories – The National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle.
He said: “I’m a very emotional person and to be able to share the book with the children was always going to greatly affect me.
“The problem with Little Chef has made it far more stressful than was necessary, but the main thing is that the book is now here and it’s going to help all the mini chefs like Armin and his little friends and raise money for such an important charity.”
The Cystic Fibrosis Trust’s community fundraiser in the north Gemma Williamson said: “As well as raising money, it will also help to get people to understand.
“I think it’s fantastic and really inspiring. The parents of children with cystic fibrosis will really love the idea, especially all the different recipes.”
Before the launch, Matei spent time in the kitchen to deliver a master class to students at Cramlington Learning Village, who are studying GCSE Food Preparation and Nutrition and as part of the qualification will have to prepare a three-course meal.
Matei – with the help of mini chef Armin – prepared salmon en croute with broccoli stem fresh capers and tomato salsa.
The school’s head of food Julia Smith said: “High skill and professional presentation are vital for high grades in practical assessments so Matei’s demonstration and expert advice has been invaluable. The students are extremely enthusiastic about their course and several of them want to work in the food industry so it’s great for them to see such a top chef at work.”
Matei said: “It’s all about cooking with kids, for kids.
“I want to encourage children from an early age to eat well, but also begin to learn about cooking. It’s one of the most important life skills so the earlier you begin the better.”
He added: “It was fantastic to meet the students at Cramlington and I hope it’s helped them. The thrill of any chef is to see people enjoying the food you’ve made and they seemed to like it.”
Big Chef Mini Chef is available now through Matei’s website www.mateibaran.com