Cancer Can Make It Difficult To Enjoy Food, This Cookery School Hopes To Change That

Ryan Riley launched Life Kitchen after his mum died from cancer.

A cookery school dedicated to helping people with cancer enjoy food again is set to open in Sunderland.

Life Kitchen at The Lodge will be the permanent home of the Life Kitchen initiative, which was created by food writer Ryan Riley, who lost his mother Krista to cancer five years ago.

To date, Riley has been travelling the country to teach new recipes to people with cancer, who can struggle to enjoy their favourite meals due to the side effects of treatment. But from 4 June, the programme will have its own dedicated home, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Presenter Sue Perkins has previously co-hosted a number of the Life Kitchen classes; she was touched by Riley’s concept after her father died from cancer. Now, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson is showing her support, by officially opening the new site.

Ryan Riley teaching a class. 
Ryan Riley teaching a class. 

Cancer treatment can often alter people’s perception of taste, with some reporting a metallic taste in their mouths. Others undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy might experience uncomfortable sensitivity to certain textures or temperatures.

With the help of senses specialist Professor Barry Smith from the University of London, Riley created a menu that’s suitable for cancer patients and their altered taste buds.

The school will host frequent cooking classes for both the community and people further afield, and will double up as an outreach space for local people. All cookery classes will be free for people living with cancer.

Members of the public have donated more than £22,000 to make the school a possibility, and architects, building firms and a kitchen appliance company have donated services for free to bring Riley’s dream to life.

Previously speaking to HuffPost UK, Riley said it was hard to watch his mum lose her love of food during her cancer treatment.

“She was miserable, and was also so tired, so cooking took a back seat since there was no point in spending time making meals that she couldn’t even enjoy,” he said.

“I felt like she lost her zest for life long before she lost her battle with cancer. This was part of what inspired me to start Life Kitchen, I wanted to give people living with cancer enjoyment again.”

He told Chronicle Live he was “humbled” when Nigella Lawson agreed to officially open the kitchen.

“She immediately came on board and has supported me very vocally. She’s been a very good backer and confidant for me,” he said.

“Nigella’s got a huge personal investment in it having lost her husband, mother and sister to cancer. I think that’s why she really cares about it. It’s really humbling and lovely that somebody of her character has invested so much in my small project.”