Sweet taste of success
People often highlight Jeremiah Josey as someone who has overcome the odds. He has autism but, at 20, he is a published author and has made a name for himself in the culinary world, where he often runs with celebrity chefs such as Marcus Samuelsson. As one might expect of a millennial, he also has a YouTube channel, Jeremiah’s Cooking Adventures.
Last year he appeared three times on Steve Harvey’s daytime talk show, Steve.
“Steve Harvey was awesome. He was nice, just like he seems on television,” said Mr Josey, who appeared with Christina Tosi, founder of the famed chain of dessert and bakery restaurants Milk Bar, on one of the episodes.
Seven million people watched that particular show, including Anthony Peets, president of the Bermuda Autism Support and Education charity.
He was particularly interested because his son, Ahmani, who also has autism and loves to cook, recently started selling baked goods under the name Ahmani’s Cookies.
“What caught my attention was how Jeremiah interacted with Steve Harvey; the cadence of voice and how he articulated his answers,” Mr Peets said.
“Having a teen son just three years younger you look and see possibilities. So I looked at his dexterity and social skills. I could clearly relate as l saw and watched him.”
Impressed, he got in touch with Mr Josey’s mother, Simone Greggs, ultimately inviting the pair to Bermuda.
Mr Josey will this week speak at schools and cook with Antonio Belvedere, of The Terrace, Michiko Campbell, of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, and Fred Ming, author and Bermuda College culinary arts professor.
The highlight of his visit, however, promises to be on Saturday when he will bake alongside Ahmani at a Paget church.
“I got my first passport two weeks ago,” he said proudly. “I’m excited to explore Bermuda and see what is there.”
His mother’s hope is that one day they are able “to dispel the negative stereotypes associated with autism”.
In grade 2, Mr Josey was labelled as “disruptive” and was given a misdiagnosis of attention deficit disorder.
Ritalin was recommended but something did not feel right to his mother.
After other health problems were ruled out, the Maryland resident was sent to Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, where his autism was discovered.
Ms Greggs eventually enrolled him in a private school where he was given extra time on tests and other accommodations to aid his study.
He got interested in cooking when he was “quite little”, introduced by his grandmother, Doris Greggs-McQuilkin.
“I love my grandmother’s hospitality,” Mr Josey said. “Me and her would make a lot of pastries together when I would come over her house. The cooking overall started when we made this savoury recipe, egg in the basket. It is where you toast up the bread and in the centre goes a sunny side up egg.”
Cheesecake is one of his favourite things to make today. He likes it plain but has been experimenting with different types and compotes.
He got his big break when he was interviewed by YouTube’s NowThis Food, last July.
It got “over a million views” and led to Mr Josey’s appearance on several national television shows. And then Steve Harvey came calling.
“Jeremiah was very familiar with some of the other shows Steve Harvey has done and they seemed eager to make the show about him, rather than to just do a segment,” Ms Greggs said.
On his first appearance last September, he was a little surprised to discover how the show actually works, Mr Josey said.
“I was surprised that I literally met Steve Harvey in person. It was my first time to meet a real live celebrity. He is as nice as he seems. He is very funny. He is just awesome.”
His ultimate dream is to open a pastry restaurant, Jeremiah’s Cakes and Shakes, ideally in Los Angeles, California or Manhattan, New York.
Before that however, he’d like to find a cooking school that will accommodate his special needs.
“Jeremiah is considered half-functioning,” Ms Greggs said.
“When it came to applying for culinary schools, with some of the schools there were no accommodations. They were not taking his individualised education plan into consideration.
“He had to test in to get into some of the schools. I felt that would be very difficult for him. Then some schools had off-campus housing. They had a difficult time understanding that Jeremiah would not be the kind of student to live on campus without me being nearby.”
One option they’re now considering is hiring someone to accompany Mr Josey so he can attend.
“That person would be responsible for making sure he would get to class,” Ms Greggs said.
Now that he has a passport Mr Josey’s dream is to visit France and Italy after Bermuda.
“I have already tried pizza,” he said. “That is my favourite food. I am just wondering what Italy’s pizza will taste like, and I look forward to trying other foods in Italy that I haven’t tried before.”
• Jeremiah Josey will sign copies of his book, Here’s What I Want You To Know, at Harbour Nights on Wednesday. His cooking demonstration with Ahmani Peets takes place at the Evangelical Church on Saturday from 6pm to 8pm. Admission is free