A TYNESIDE TV chef who provides 'kitchen therapy' via the Middlesbrough FC Foundation has described how cooking brought him back from the brink.

Romanian-born Matei Baran moved to the North-East ten years ago and has worked in a number of high-profile restaurants and hotels.

In 2016 he reached the quarter final of Master Chef: The Professionals and last he month started a pioneering cooking course called Kitchen Therapy to help people overcome their problems by giving them confidence in the kitchen.

The Northern Echo:

The project involves around a dozen trainees taking part in an eight-week course which will culminate in them cooking a five-course tasting menu for paying guests at two of Teesside’s top restaurants.

Mr Baran, who is 41 and lives in Wallsend, wants to pass on the mental health benefits that working in a kitchen gave him - particularly after he took an overdose when he was 20.

He said: “In the kitchen I found myself in a place which gave me back my confidence, took away my bad thoughts and helped me move forward.

“Being involved in this project is amazing as I want to help and support people who share these emotional struggles.

"I want to show them that a kitchen can actually be a friendly place where you can find peace and motivation.”

Earlier this year Mr Baran published a recipe book – Big Chef Mini Chef – which was inspired by his young son who suffers from the life-limiting disease Cystic Fibrosis.

Proceeds from the book go the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

The Northern Echo:

Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation’s events and fundraising coordinator Alan Geddes said: “I think with the traumas Matei has gone through in his personal life he’s decided that he wants to give something back - and that’s fantastic.

“It’s about giving them the opportunity to learn new skills.

"But I suppose, more importantly, it’s about them getting inspired and building their self-esteem to go out into the world a much more confident person.”

The trainees are being supported by Step Forward Tees Valley and the Foundation’s own employability scheme.

Martin Jones, who is an officer for Changing Lives which is part of the Step Forward Tees Valley programme, said the project will be beneficial for the trainees.

He said: “Some have worked in the kitchen, some don’t even cook at home and others totally avoid the kitchen, but that’s due to their mental health issues, their anxiety and depression."

The first milestone for the trainees is on July 28 at the Riverside Stadium when they will make canapes for MFC Foundation’s partners before being introduced to the crowd during half-time at the Middlesbrough versus St Etienne friendly.