Writing a cookbook is a hard enough task. Now imagine doing it without a stomach.
Hans Rueffert, chef and contestant on the first season of The Next Food Network Star, accomplished that impressive feat as a fringe benefit from an even more difficult undertaking: beating stomach cancer.
Rueffert was diagnosed with the disease in 2005, not long after he’d finished his run on the Food Network competition. Cancer treatment eventually led to the removal of his entire stomach and 95% of his esophagus, making for a painful, and ironic, situation for the former chef of Woodbridge Inn in Jasper, Georgia.
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In between the surgeries that removed his cancerous organs, Rueffert wrote a cookbook, Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow, that weaves together healthy recipes, photos taken by his wife Amy and personal essays on family, illness and food. He’s working on a second cookbook about working with kids in the kitchen, which he plans to call Eat With Love.
Rueffert’s sci-fi-sounding lack of a stomach does not prevent him from eating or trying the recipes he put in the book. In March, doctors connected a part of his intestines called the jejunum to the very top of his esophagus, circumventing the idea of a stomach entirely.
As a result, he eats six small meals a day; because he lacks the receptive space a stomach provides, eating a meal larger than a kid’s meal can induce vomiting. Rueffert can no longer eat spicy or sugary foods, which he loved before he fell ill.
Somehow, Rueffert, a cheerful, fast-talking person, doesn’t treat the matter of his operation too gravely. “The ironic, dark humor of a chef without a stomach was not lost on me,” he told the Huffington Post.
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