Tom Dickinson is a professional chef on the autism spectrum. He is a proud graduate of the Culinary Arts Program at Linn Benton Community College where he trained extensively for two years.
In this post, Chef Tom explains his mission, his work to support individuals on the autism spectrum, as well as his goals for the future!
Chef Tom’s Mission –
Ever since I was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, my goal has been to use my own experience on the spectrum as inspiration to help others. My mission has been to make sure that people are aware of the seriousness of autism. I encourage adults and parents who have children on the spectrum to get into the kitchen and cook for themselves, not to depend on frozen dinners and processed junk and fast food for their main source of meals. I believe that everyone can cook well and eat delicious, simple, easy to prepare meals that are made fresh using minimal amount of ingredients but still made from scratch, and I want to show them how. I decided to use my culinary degree and training from my mentors to develop my own unique cooking style called GFCF Fusion.
Chef Tom’s Dream -
One of the things that scared me the most about adults living on their own and being on the spectrum is an adult who is not only dealing with Autism, but having to deal with diabetes as well, and that's something that I have felt passionate about and want to do everything in my power to prevent.
That is why I am offering what I call The Spectrum Culinary Academy. My goal down the road is to be able to create a place where adults who have Asperger's or Autism can train to be professionals in the culinary industry. With my degree, I am academically qualified to teach and I do teach middle school children basic cooking skills at an after school program.
Chef Tom’s Activities –
In addition to having a full-time job as a Professional Chef, I also find time for the following endeavors to support individuals with autism.
1. I host a radio show called Cooking With CLASS to teach parents who have children on the Autism Spectrum and adults who are on the spectrum to cook with CLASS - Creativity, Love, Attitude, Simplicity, and Soul. Through my show, I work to get parents of children and adults who are on the Autism Spectrum to forego fast food and microwave dinners for fresh food that is easy to prepare and tastes absolutely delicious.
2. I run classes to teach individuals with special needs to cook for themselves two nights a week.
3. I am the author of two GFCF cookbooks. I never thought that this would happen to me. That this dream that I had searched out over a year ago would be happening for a second time. Pictured here is me, holding in my arms two cookbooks Cooking With Class and Where There’s a Meal There’s a Way. A third cookbook Affordable Eats is on the way!
4. I am currently working on Differently Abled Chef, a step-by-step guide to teaching your special needs loved ones how to cook.
5. I am a regular on the award winning public access television series, Autism TodayTV where I demonstrate GFCF Fusion Cuisine and give tips on how to get your children into the kitchen. Visit www.autismtodaytv.com to see me in action!
6. I am also a proud contributor to TheAUTSPOT.com with my support group!
I believe that every individual with autism can
· Be college graduates
· Be happily married
· Hold down jobs
· Own their own businesses
· Contribute to publications
· And sometimes, they create publications of their own.
· And here's the surprise. Sometimes, Autistic people become chefs.
That's right everyone. I am a professional chef, and I am on the Autism Spectrum!
Click here to visit Chef Tom’s website!
This post is part of our Heart of Autism series, where we highlight individuals with autism giving back to the autism community. If you know of any stories, we would love to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.