A Wearside food writer who lost his beloved mum to cancer is helping sufferers develop a new taste for culinary skills.
Ryan Riley’s mum Krista died from small-cell lung cancer three years ago, aged just 47.
Now former Washington School pupil Ryan is launching Life Kitchen - a charitable project providing free cooking classes for people living with cancer and their families.
He has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the initial £10,000 needed to establish the charity, and has already won the support of notable names in the world of food and drink, including TV chef Nigella Lawson.
“Mum inspired my interest because she was a really good cook,” he said.
“Cooking has always been a part of my life.”
Food can be a comforting, energising pleasure and during something as tough to experience as chemotherapy it’s really important that people get to enjoy the food they love.Ryan Riley
Losing her sense of taste had been one of the hardest things for Krista to come to terms with during her illness: “It was not losing her hair, or her eyebrows, it was taste,” said Ryan.
“She knew that she had a terminal illness and was never going to be able to taste food properly for the rest of her life.
About 50% of people receiving chemotherapy experience a loss or change of taste. When my mum was ill, it was a horrendous time for her and our whole family - made even harder by seeing her denied the most basic pleasure of being able to taste her favourite foods.
“I was 18 when she was diagnosed and she died when I was 20. I could not actually do that much to help her, but she inspeired me to help others.”
Now 23, Ryan is a food writer and stylist whose work has appeared in Waitrose Food and Sainsbury’s Magazine, as well as in numerous cookbooks and television advertisements. A trained cook, with hundreds of hours in professional test kitchens under his belt, he lives in London but frequently returns home to visit dad Shaun.
“Food can be a comforting, energising pleasure and during something as tough to experience as chemotherapy it’s really important that people get to enjoy the food they love,” he said.
“Life Kitchen will deliver specialist cooking courses that focus on really helping people living with cancer, and the family and friends who care for them, to enjoy their food.”
High-profile support on social media has come from Nigella Lawson, who tweeted details of Life Kitchen to her two million followers saying, “Please support this”, while Chantelle Nicholson, the award-winning chef-patron of Tredwell’s in Covent Garden, is the first chef to volunteer to deliver classes for Life Kitchen.
Tredwell’s has also pledged to fundraise for Life Kitchen throughout April and May 2017 by way of a voluntary donation added to all bills.
Macmillan Cancer Support is also backing Ryan’s project. Information Nurse Specialist John Newlands said: “Many people tell Macmillan that going through cancer treatment has affected their sense of taste.
“Sadly, this means people aren’t always able to enjoy their meals or gatherings with friends and families. It can make it hard for people caring for them to know what food to prepare.
“It’s great to see Ryan using his own experience to help people going through cancer treatment to enjoy food and learn more about recipes and flavour.”
To date, the GoFundMe campaign has raised more than £2,000 of its £10,000 target. To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/lifekitchen