At just 11 years-old, founder and CEO (‘Chef Executive Officer’) of Dipalicious, Omari McQueen, is beginning to amass recognition and a remarkable number of awards for his vegan cooking efforts, which he started at just 8 years-old. Amongst them are the TruLittle Hero Award for being an entrepreneurial hero below the age of 12 from Cause4Children Ltd. as well as PETA’s Compassionate Kids Award for extending his business principles to involve animal welfare.
Realising he could serve a helping hand when his mother, Leah, was ill and unable to work, he has proudly stepped in to help his family and to own his role. And he’s been on a roll ever since, gaining experience with a pop-up restaurant in London last August, travelling overseas to feature in TV cooking shows, exhibiting at popular events such as Vegfest, and inspiring others around vegan cooking. This has only whet his appetite (no pun intended) for grander visions, intrigued? Read on for our interview with Omari McQueen who’s also the youngest ‘veganpreneur’ in the world!
Hello Omari, how are you and what have you been up to today?
I am good, and I’ve been cooking!
Cooking a vegetable curry!
Ooh nice, I like a good curry! We heard, that you got invited to do an interview with Kevin Hart. How was it?
It was really fun, and he was funny as well, the way he was copying my laugh. And he was telling me secrets!
He loved your laugh! (Omari giggles) So, have you taken a look at our site?
Yes, I saw it and I like it.
What do you think of the name Keep Fit Kingdom, (KFK for short)?
It’s really good.
Our mission is to help a billion people reach 100 years of age happily and healthily, what do you think of that?
Background & Vegan Cooking
Thank you. So, I heard you teach people how to cook vegan. Who taught you?
Me! I got my cooking skills from my mom and dad. Well, my dad didn’t have time to cook because he had to work. My older brother, Laquarn, and I really learned to cook when my mom was sick, but it wasn’t really his passion so I started taking over!
You took over when you were just 8 years-old, how did you learn?
My dad taught me how to cut vegetables, and my mom taught me how to use the oven, oh and the seasonings, yeah!
That’s awesome! You started when you were 8, now you’re 11; how did you decide to become vegan and why?
The reason I decided to become vegan is so that people could realise they can eat without harming animals, because I do not like the way animals are being treated to be used for food or clothes.
Definitely understand where you’re coming from. Are you the only vegan in your family?
Two of my brothers are vegan too, but my dad, my two other brothers and my sister are not. My mom eats plant-based, but she still wears leather, and also has leather handbags.
Work to do then! Do you have a favourite vegan dessert?
Vegan apple crumble. I use apples and my sweet dip inside, as it has nutmeg, and that goes well with an apple crumble.
Sounds delicious, I’ll have to try that. You have four brothers and one sister; what do they think about your recipes?
They think they are really yummy!
Who’s the best cook in the house?
Me! (All laugh)
You’ve been home-schooled for a while, who teaches you and what do you like best and what do you find most challenging about that?
Yes I have been, and my mom and dad have been teaching me. I love it that I can do a lot of cooking! I do not find anything challenging. Well, reading. And I’ve recently started Secondary school!
Omari’s Veganpreneurial Flair
Mom: Omari is dyslexic, and he finds some reading difficult sometimes. Reading comprehension is harder. We started to teach him reading, through giving him cook books and learning recipes, and that helps him along.
Smart move to use his interest to get him reading. Okay, so let’s get into your background and career and talk about Dipalicious! How did you get started selling your now award-winning dips?
I started learning how to sell my dips at home and I sold my dips for the first time at the UltraKids Business Fair. I made my own YouTube channel, and started to cook pizza which was too dry, so I wanted a sauce to go with it. I wanted to use ketchup, but I didn’t know if it was vegan, so I decided to research it, but that took too long, so I decided to make my own vegan dip!
Once I had a trip from school, and they were saying you need to work for people. I really don’t wanna work for people, I want people to work for me! So I went back home and I told my mom that I don’t want to work for people, and that I want people to work for me. I wanna have my own business! When my mom asked, “What are you going to do?” I said, “I’m gonna sell that dip I made!” So, I went and I sold my dip from there.
So, what do you think makes your recipe special?
Because of the way I cook them, people love them.
You cook from the heart – that’s your secret ingredient then! Who do you turn to for help in the vegan kitchen?
Your mom isn’t vegan though is she – so how do you go about this, do you look in cook books or search online?
Omari: I search online
Mom: Most of the time he looks things up online, and sometimes he looks in cook books. When he asks me, ”what goes well with this?”, he doesn’t like the answers I give him and then goes and looks for himself!
He likes to do things his own way, admirable. You had acted as a head chef for a restaurant, how did that come about?
Omari: I asked my mom for a LinkedIn account for my birthday because she had one.
Mom: He saw my LinkedIn, and he said “If you have LinkedIn, why do I not? So he asked for one as well.
Omari: I got to talking with a guy called Roger Wade and I told him I wanted a restaurant when I’m older, in Boxpark Croydon. So he said, “Why wait until you’re older, how about now?” So I said, “my mom doesn’t have enough money.” So he said, “I will give you a restaurant for free, at Boxpark Croydon, for a whole week.” I was so happy!
Mom: Yes! When Omari sees an opportunity, he will do his very best to make it come true. He’s got his vision board, which he changes very frequently. He put on his board, “I want to be on ITV News”.
So the presenter asks him “can you come on Thursday?” So later on I got a text, saying “I am looking forward to seeing you on Thursday!” So I asked Omari, “What is this about?” And he says, “I’ll be on ITV News on Thursday”.
Doesn’t need a manager then.
Omari, you’re raising money for a mobile vegan cafe bus that tours and serves around London – how’s that going?
Omari: It is kinda going…
Mom: It is going okay. It is taking long. Do you remember what I told you if things take long?
Mom: Good things come to those who wait.
Patience is a virtue, you’ll get there especially with that mindset of yours.
Totally welcome, and thank yourself too! (Omari chuckles)
Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay…Next up: Omari McQueen
Talking of restaurants, who is your favourite chef and who would you be most keen to learn from and work with?
Gordon Ramsay – he doesn’t cook vegan, does he?
Mom: He started to! Omari wants to be a chef líke Gordon Ramsay. He wants to be able to go to people and their establishments, and tell them what they should do, and what they should have.
Sans the colourful language?
Mom: No rude words at all!
Jamie Oliver asked on his Facebook page, what his next book should be about. Vegans caught onto that, and replied en mass: Vegan! We’re curious what he does with that, your thoughts?
That sounds so good! (Ed. his new book is “VEG”, all about vegetables.)
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
Mom: What is the best thing someone ever said to you, Omari? Did you like it when Daniel Radcliffe said he loved your dish?
Omari: Yes, that was the best thing ever!
So Harry Potter liked your dish?
Mom: Yes. Omari had a difficult time not calling him Harry Potter. He’s a huge Harry Potter fan. He’d say: “Harry.. oh no, Daniel, sorry!”
I’d probably call him Harry too. So, Omari, what “go-to foods” make you feel great and full of energy?
Mom: How about your Mama Bear Shake?
Omari: Yes! The Mama Bear Shake that I made, it has blueberries, banana, strawberries, coconut milk and pineapple.
Mom: …and why do you call it Mama Bear?
Omari: Because it helps my mom, when she is sick.
That’s so níce of you.
Mom: He made it when I was ill. I frequently get migraines, and I get really tired with the medication, so he used to make the Mama Bear shake when I was ill. He calls it the Mama Bear Shake.
How are you coping with the headaches now?
Mom: I am a little better, it is managed now. When I was suffering from it, it was hard. I have days where I can’t really focus because of the headache. However, we have a great family network, so when this comes in – Omari does what he does, because he loves cooking. It keeps his mind off of it as well. And it is keeping me more active than before too!
Fun & Leisure
That’s great. A few fun, quick-fire questions now if we may! Which countries would you like to visit and why?
Jamaica, because it’s a hot country, there are so many fruits there, and it’s where our family is from, we have family there.
Mom: And you want to go to Kenya, on safari, as well, don’t you?
Omari: Yes, to see the elephants, giraffes, rhinos…
Mom: Omari doesn’t like to go to the zoo. The animals are not in their natural environment. So, we have a plan, just need to work towards it! He wants to go to Kenya, a safari park or maybe South Africa. He wants to see animals in their natural habitat. If friends ask him “Let’s go to the zoo!” He says, “no thank you!”
Agree. So, what’s one geeky thing about you that people don’t really know?
I like to play pranks.
Mom: He loves to jump out on you!
Hope you get to be on Ellen one day, so you can prank her as she usually pranks others!
Mom: (laughs) Omari’s face completely lit up when you said that!
Ellen loves animals too. She helps the gorillas too, right? (Ed. via, The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.)
Omari said to me the other day: “Mom, I just wish that I had enough money to donate, because he wants to donate. Ten percent of his profits go to “I Heart Africa”. And when he does his pop-up, he said “I can donate to more charities, mommy! I wish we would all do that!
Omari, with your mindset, I’m sure you’ll get there. So, if you could be any animal for a day, which would you be and does that character describe you?
An elephant, because he never forgets.
What are some of your favourite sports?
Football, basketball, running, and my favourite is swimming!
Mom: Omari actually just learned to swim when we were in Morocco. He learned fast and was really, really proud.
Congratulations! What is your favourite music?
Do you have any favourite games, aside from pranking people?
What favourite cook books have inspired you?
“Levi Roots”, that was my first book.
Mom: Yes, I think that’s because it’s the book he learned to read from. And you love the “Original Flava”, with the the twins, Shaun and Craig. You have the first one and you asked me for the second. They also have a vegan one that’s good too.
Reflections & The Future…
What’s your proudest accomplishment so far?
Making my mom and dad happy!
Mom: (Sentimental) Aww. Wow, really? What about your awards and stuff?
Omari: Yes, I have a couple.
Mom: What makes you happiest?
Omari: When I can make you happy.
Endearing! What exciting things are you looking forward to in 2020 – what would you like to achieve?
Opening up Pop-ups around the world!
What is on your vision board right now?
Africa, Jamaica, Nigeria, New Zealand.
Mom: And you have the villa that you are going to buy.
Omari: Yes I put in a villa, because I am going to be a millionaire.
Put in a pool too! Just before we wrap then, what helps motivate you?
Mom: What keeps you going?
Omari: When people are kind!
Mom: Do you like, when people tell you: “I love that! I love what you are doing!” Does that make you wanna do it even more?
Omari probably takes on other people’s scepticism as fuel to show them what can be done, rather than being told that he cannot do something?
Mom: That is very, very true, because when I told him you cannot have a restaurant until you are older, he made that come true.
Inner drive! Okay, Omari, what special message would you like to share with Keep Fit Kingdom readers and your growing fans and followers around the world right now?
To stay humble, be yourself and that your flaws are what make you unique!
Wise words indeed! Where’s the best place for readers to find out more about Omari’s work?
Mom: He mainly updates on LinkedIn and Instagram the most. I thought he preferred Instagram, but he enjoys LinkedIn more! I’m still figuring out how it works myself!
Omari, give us some pointers on using LinkedIn!
Well, Omari, thank you very much for your kind participation in this interview, we really do appreciate the work you’re doing to spread the benefits of going more plant-based and your veganpreneur story! Thanks for taking the time to share your valuable experience on and may the V-orce be with you…