What's the worst illness that could possibly happen to a chef? I thought famed Chicago chef Grant Achatz had experienced it. His run with cancer of the mouth wiped out his sense of taste for several months and he almost lost his tongue!
This summer we told you about foodie Anna Stoessinger's last meal before she had her cancer-filled stomach removed. But imagine if your entire career -- your whole way of life -- were all about eating? What if you were literally raised to be a chef?
That's the situation with Chef Hans Rueffert, a former contestant on The Next Food Network Star (now just called Food Network Star). His bout with cancer also left him without a stomach. You better believe his last full meal was every bit as delicious as Stoessinger's, but what about his life after surgery? Believe it or not, his work as a chef is even more important now.
Rueffert can still eat, but now it's six tiny meals a day for him -- and every single bite counts. After surviving stomach cancer, he wants each crumb that passes his lips to be packed with energy and nutrients. He can't afford to digest anything he doesn't need, and he can't waste energy on something that could put his health at risk. The stakes of eating could not be higher.
Now he's a man on a mission, teaching the rest of us how to pack every bite with taste and nutrition. He wrote a cookbook while he was still recovering -- that's how on fire he is -- called Eat Like There's No Tomorrow, and it's chock full of super-healthy recipes along with his own story.
He's also teaching cooking classes at the Cancer Wellness Center at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta and Fayetteville, Georgia. The classes are all about bringing more anti-cancer foods into your diet. He tells CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta that teaching has actually helped relieve his post-treatment symptoms. In the six years since Hans has been cancer-free, he's been trying to make every moment delicious.
Imagine standing on the precipice of death, gazing into the abyss, and then coming out on the other side, still alive. If you love eating, wouldn't every meal forever after taste like a miracle? I'm thinking about Rueffert's story today as I contemplate lunch. What if my body could only handle a tiny bit of food at a time? What if the threat of cancer's return were always around the corner? What would I choose to eat? It makes me want to make every bite count, too.
As Hans would say, "Never take anything for granted. Never."
Would you think about food differently if you survived stomach cancer?
Image via Outofzbleu.com