Travon Nicholls has a gift – a genuine talent for baking, and he’s only 14 years old.
The very articulate Combermerian, with a fresh cake all baked and ready for delivery, sat with Bajan Vibes in his family’s Newbury, St George home as he spoke about his earliest memories of baking with his grandfather Ivan Nicholls.
“When I was barely able to stand, my grandfather loved baking; so I always used to help him break the eggs and mix up the cake batter, anything like that. He inspired me to bake,” he said simply, though he admitted that he has never asked his grandad what he thought of his skill.
“I assume he is very proud. The majority of my family is very proud,” said the soft-spoken lad.
The pride shows in his mother’s eyes. Nicole Nicholls-Hinds is all too aware that Travon takes after her father and the two have a bond that is just indefinable. It’s a friendship and a love of baking that have leapt across generations.
“To be honest, Travon is really close to my father; so it is something he came up and saw my father doing. I guess that is how it really started. But it’s not a surprise; no, because of how he came up with my dad. I’m actually really proud of him,” she said smiling.
And she would be the first to admit that when it comes to baking, she leaves it all in her son’s more than capable hands.
“He does it all on his own. I can’t help him because I can’t bake,” she confessed, laughing somewhat self-deprecatingly as she hugged her daughter, Travon’s spritely younger sister, Trashana close.
The seven-year-old chimed in every so often during the interview to remind Travon of something he might have forgotten. Their relationship too seemed like a firm one.
“I like to try different cakes. I do vanilla, chocolate, cheesecake. I might even try, well, I’ve helped with the coconut bread,” explained Travon, as Trashana reminded him that he’s also done banana bread, carrot bread and cassava pone.
“Probably the cheesecake is my favourite. Right now, I only do cherry cheesecake and the basics. I have not tried anything difficult as yet,” he said.
Asked what has kept him pursuing this hobby on his own at such a young age at which other boys might be hooked on computer games or rough-housing, Travon admitted that he did have interests beyond his ovens. Baking, for him, is simply a much loved hobby.
“That’s a good question, really. Honestly I don’t really know. Since I was doing it for such a long time, it just became a part of me. I do it mainly on weekends, but if someone orders something and they want it during the week – if it is a big order – I would bake during the week; but I mainly get orders like that during the week on Fridays. So I would come home and bake on Thursdays if I have to, but other than that, Saturday is my main day.”
He hasn’t yet had birthday orders, though he made a birthday cake just last week as a surprise for the recipient.
The 14-year-old’s baking has become so known now, that it is a kind of side business.
“My friends love it. All of them. Sometimes if I have orders I would bake on Thursdays, so they would usually tell me either on the Thursday or Friday and I would bring the cakes either on the Friday or Monday. So they would be asking what flavours I have today, because they love the red velvet.
“The cupcakes are $2 for normal flavours; cheesecake are $4, and I only started doing those yesterday [Friday]; a nine-inch cheesecake would be, depending on the flavour – I do basic but I’m trying the other flavours as well – and that would be around $70,” he said listing his prices like the consummate businessman.
But how does he cope with the demand of his “clientele” and that of his school schedule? Well, no real problems there.
“It’s not really stressful for me; not at all. I only started baking and selling at the ending of last month; so when the time comes – because during this term the marks for end of term usually come from little exercises during classes during the term, but on the last term then we have exams from about week six or seven for about two to three weeks.
“During that time I will stop baking, but after exams are finished, we really don’t do much work; so I could even bake twice during the week when that time comes. During the vacation I would be baking for the first week to week and a half then I go off on holiday, and then I would probably start back at the beginning of September.”
Most of his orders at school, he said, came from teachers, while the students just bought whatever he brought.
Is this going to be a career path for the youngster? Not really. He has his sights set on being a pilot, something that has become another bonding experience between him and his grandfather who takes him to the airport every other week to watch the planes take off and come in. The air to sea transfers are the ones that most interest them.
But for now, getting ready to deliver his only order on this slow weekend, it has left more time to spend with his plane simulator before he has to get to baking for Monday morning for school and his eager customers.