Homeschool student making mark in cooking world

Ruben Malone poses with a peach cobbler he made. He has been cooking seriously since age 12, although he helped his grandmother make cookies starting at age 4. He now has more than 5,000 Instagram followers, including celebrity chefs. (Ruth Campbell/Odessa American)

Ruben Malone first got into cooking when he was 4, helping his grandmother make cookies.

But he really got into it when he was 12. Ruben was eating cereal and his dad was making his own breakfast. Between the time his dad was making toast and getting ready to come to the table and eat, Ruben had eaten his dad’s meal.

His dad asked where his breakfast was. Ruben asked him how to make it because it was really delicious.

His mother, Doris, has also been cooking since she was 10 and has passed her knowledge on to her son. They cook together on the weekends, but Ruben feels it’s “his kitchen.”

Since he started seriously creating dishes, Ruben has gathered 5,436 Instagram followers and some 450 videos. He can make just about anything at this point. His Instagram handle is T-BoneMalone.

Ruben, 17, and his family have lived in Odessa for about three years. He’s homeschooled through Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville, an online public school program. He’s dyslexic and partially blind. His mom, Doris, is an assistant principal at Fasken Elementary School in Midland and going for her doctorate.

His dad, Scott, is retired military.

The virtual school offers support and his parents help Ruben as well. He has passed his STAAR tests and has been nominated for the National Honor Society.

He uses used YouTube to research different recipes and he uses his tongue to guide him. He grinds his own spices and fruit to mix a specific flavor and keeps them in small plastic containers.

Although he is trying to increase his cooking speed, Ruben is somewhat of a purist in that he tries to avoid using the microwave, unless he’s reheating food.

His dad says it’s all tabletop, oven or he uses a grill.

Doris said he uses an Instantpot for rice, but other than that he doesn’t really use the microwave.

Scott said he puts fruit in the dehydrator, the sugars concentrate down and he puts it in the mincer and refines it into a powder that’s concentrated pure fruit sugar. Ruben sprinkles it in instead of using white sugar or processed sugar. He tries to bring out the natural sugars and flavors using fruit.

“What he does is he’ll go on and research on YouTube what we haven’t taught him ourselves. He’ll look at that recipe and then he’ll recreate the actual recipe off of YouTube for us to try, so he can mimic that and then he’ll cook it again and he’ll add his own flavors to it,” Scott said.

He usually says spaghetti when asked what his favorite dish is to make, but he’s trying more Asian-style dishes these days. Ruben also makes his own pasta.

Ruben Malone, a 17-year-old homeschooled chef, poses with his dad, Scott, and mom, Doris, in their home. Malone started cooking as a young child and now has more than 5,000 Instagram followers, including celebrity chefs. (Ruth Campbell/Odessa American)

Scott said all Ruben’s dishes are gluten free and as close to being diabetic friendly as possible. Since Scott is diabetic, they use him as a guinea pig. He’ll sample a slice of cake and check his blood sugar. He said it goes up, but it doesn’t “shoot crazy” up.

“His products that he makes — everybody raves about it. For me, I love them, but I’m also his biggest critic, too,” Scott said.

“He has every tool that he needs to make his own unique recipes,” his mom, Doris, said.

Scott said Ruben can make about 12 dishes in the Latino or Spanish and for Italian, he can make fettuccine Alfredo and five other Italian dishes.

“He’s gotten a little bit into French, so he can do about three or four of those right now. He did a ratatouille, which is traditionally a vegan dish. But he added hamburger meat to it and it was real good. He’s done that three times. He’s done it for the church,” Scott said.

They attend Spanish services at First Baptist Church in Midland and Scott said they ate the whole ratatouille dish.

Doris said Ruben has made bread for hot dog rolls and tortas. Ruben said he has made banana and carrot bread and cheesecake, Key Lime pie with meringue, among other things. He makes homemade crust.

He also follows celebrity chefs and emulates their dishes. Several celebrity chefs are also watching him on Instagram and the Food Network has contacted him twice.

Scott said he taught Ruben how to use his tongue to find balance in the flavors.

“You have three different areas. You have your sweet, your bitter and your heat. You have to balance that and layer those in there and into this food,” Scott said.

“There’s different layers like he made an Asian dish two days ago. I took some to the VFW to two officers. He did a miso soup with mushrooms and tofu. Then he did a chopped, cubed stir fry,” Scott said, indicating they thought it was tasty.

Scott said their portion sizes are reasonable and they give a lot of the food away. The church has a potluck once a month and he is cooking for the DAV.

He added that they have friends over and they’re just waiting for Ruben to get his restaurant going.

Ruben plans to go to college and study culinary and he’s considering becoming a dietitian.

He added that he is taking a class to learn more about healthy food and eating.

He takes his own photos for social media.

“I’m actually quite happy that people get to see all the food I make. It’s where I get to combine a lot of my passions into one thing I get to combine a lot of my passions into one thing, like making people happy looking at my food and trying it. That’s one of the reasons why I want to (open) a restaurant, so I can see people who are happy,” he added.

Once he opens a restaurant, he wants to help people that are less fortunate and teach them how to cook so they can be self-sufficient when they’re on their own.

Ruben also likes art, so he tries to add some artistic flair to his food.

Asked if he doesn’t want people to eat his dishes because they’re so beautiful, Ruben said it depends on if he’s trying to take a picture and his dad just takes the bowl before he can snap a photo.

“I’m smelling the goodness,” Scott said.