The young cook is all about having fun with food and bringing in the Caribbean flavours of his heritage. Prudence Wade finds out more.

While you might struggle to get many 12-year-olds to eat their veg, Omari McQueen isn't your average tween.

Not only has McQueen been vegan since he was eight years old, but his CV reads like that of a seasoned chef: running a pop-up restaurant, selling a range of dips, presenting a cooking show on CBBC - and now publishing his own cookbook.

McQueen fell in love with food by accident. "When my mum was sick, my dad taught me how to cook when he was going to work," he explains. "He taught me and my older brother how to warm up food and do the basics, but I wanted to get more into it and actually use the stove, learn how to fry and chop things."

When researching food that might help his mum Leah feel better, McQueen stumbled across veganism. He soon committed to a plant-based diet, saying: "I didn't like the way animals were treated for food and clothes, so I decided to become vegan and cook my own vegan meals."

McQueen's enthusiasm for cooking and veganism is infectious, and you can see why he's the perfect bubbly host for a CBBC cooking show. The tween cook is all about having fun with food, saying boldly: "I'm creative - the kitchen is my science lab. I'm always experimenting with different flavours and different meals, and making new recipes."

Part of this experimentation is bringing in Caribbean flavours and seasonings into his plant-based dishes. McQueen's grandmother "cooks Caribbean meals", he explains. "I put my own vegan twist to it, so I don't miss out on any Caribbean meals, because I come from a Caribbean background." McQueen's eyes light up when talking about his vegan Jamaican patties: "It tastes delicious!"

With a TV show and burgeoning business already under his belt, writing Omari McQueen's Best Bites Cookbook was a no-brainer - and for McQueen, it was a huge achievement. "I've got dyslexia and I find spelling hard sometimes," he admits. "But I achieved the goal, because I wrote the whole book myself. I had some spelling mistakes, but my mum checked it and then it was really amazing."

For Leah, food is a jumping-off point for her son to learn about so many different things. The book has helped with his spelling and self-confidence, and she says: "Omari learned to read fluently by reading cookbooks... And most of Omari's measurements and maths have been through cooking as well." Leah homeschools all six of her children, saying: "It's hard work, but I make sure they are learning in a way that they're enjoying at the same time."

That's not to say it's always smooth sailing in the kitchen. After a few pointed looks from his mother, McQueen admits sheepishly: "I am messy, I do not tidy up after myself."

To which Leah adds with a humorous groan: "It's absolutely hell. When he goes into the kitchen, he takes every seasoning out - he's got about three cupboards now. When he's in the kitchen he's like, 'Ok, I'm going to be making vegan patties'. And then he'd be like, 'But I'll make a cake as well'. And then you've got cake mix all over the sideboard.

"I'm like, 'Omari, you're sitting down and waiting for things to cook in the oven or bake - why are you still sitting and there's mess around you?' He's ruined a few of his good knives by putting them in the dishwasher - they're not meant to be in there, but he's too lazy to give it a wash. But he's learning, and I'm teaching him."

One thing McQueen has certainly mastered is setting himself targets and going for them. "Achieving goals, I get that from my mum," he says with a grin. "She always wants to achieve some goals of her own. I have my own vision board of what I want to achieve, and whenever I achieve a goal of what's on that board, then I cross it out."

So what's next for McQueen and his budding empire? Other than a cheque for a million pounds (yes, that's on the vision board), McQueen's next big plan is to start making balanced, vegan ready meals for children, and donating part of the profits to free school meals.

Omari McQueen's Best Bites Cookbook by Omari McQueen, photography by Xavier Buendia, is published by Scholastic UK, priced £12.99. Available now.