Vegan chef, 11, attacked at school after opening Caribbean restaurant

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An 11-year-old vegan chef is speaking out against bullies after being attacked at school for opening a Caribbean restaurant. But instead of hating the boy who punched him in the face, Omari McQueen has decided to help him. Omari is in his first year of secondary school after launching a pop-up restaurant this summer, selling vegan dips out of a converted shipping container in Croydon.

The temporary restaurant closed when Omari began school but he’s continuing to grow Dipalicious, the award-winning business he started aged 8. Unfortunately, some children have used Omari’s success as an excuse to target him. Last week, one older boy ran up to Omari, grabbed his tie and said ‘you think you’re special’ before punching him in the face. Omari’s mum Leah said he was ‘really shaken up’ by the unprovoked attack, but instead of showing anger, he ‘felt sorry for him’.

Vegan chef, 11, attacked at school after opening Caribbean restaurant
(Picture: Leah McQueen)

Omari started his vegan food business when he was just 8 years old. She told

‘On that night he said to me, “Mum I can’t allow my feelings to be hurt by someone who is hurting.” ‘He said, “Why is he sad mum? Is he upset? Does he need help? He’s sad because he can’t do what I’m doing, but I can show him what I’m doing by being strong.”’

Leah said he woke up the next day and asked his older brother to film him. In a heartfelt message, Omari said:

‘Yesterday was the worst day ever, I got physically attacked by an older kid at school. ‘I’m not telling you this for you guys to feel sorry for me, I’m telling you this to work hard at what you’re doing because if you’re being happy, being yourself, and you’re following your passion, there’s always going to be someone who hates what you do.’

Vegan chef, 11, attacked at school after opening Caribbean restaurant
(Picture: Leah McQueen)
Vegan chef, 11, attacked at school after opening Caribbean restaurant
(Picture: Leah McQueen)

‘Just remember, never let a bully change what you do.’ Omari has big plans for his award-winning business, Dipalicious, and hopes to open a permanent restaurant one day.

Omari surprised his mother with his positive reaction to being bullied Leah found out the boy who attacked her son was still at school this week and she threatened to phone the principal, until Omari stopped her.

She said: ‘I told Omari, “I’m not happy, why is he in the school?’ and Omari said, “I think he’s going through enough, leave it.” ‘I was speechless. He’s teaching me. As a parent you’re very protective of your child and you want to go wild. ‘But he’s actually made me think, there could be something going on there. ‘I felt anger towards his bully but there was no anger there for him.’ Omari grew up on a diet of meat, but became vegan aged 7 after learning cows ‘didn’t just die of old age’ before being turned into burgers.

Vegan chef, 11, attacked at school after opening Caribbean restaurant
(Picture: Leah McQueen)

Omari taught himself to cook vegan food by watching YouTube videos online. When Leah fell ill with ‘paralysing’ migraines, Omari stepped up and began cooking for his five other siblings and bus driver dad. He started dreaming about becoming a vegan chef and learned his recipes by watching YouTube videos online. Omari’s Dipalicious pop-up debuted in Boxpark, Croydon, after he contacted the park’s CEO Robert Wade himself and wowed him so much that he offered the space rent-free for a week.

He was helped out by his whole family, including cousins and grandmothers, but they all followed his strict instructions as head chef. Leah said Omari is now working on lots of projects, adding: ‘He wants to feed the homeless in the week before Christmas and the week after. ‘He’s preparing a few meals a day. ‘On top of that, he should have a book coming out. He’s working really hard. ‘With his business, he’s got a vision board. He puts down what he wants and he just goes for it.’

Written by: Joe Roberts

First published 05.12.19:


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