Chef Jack’s Secret Ingredient: Love

Jack Shaping-Meatballs

by Laura Martin Bacon

“Food has more love when it’s homemade – it just tastes better. For me, my mom’s cooking is comfort food that’s almost like medicine. All those weeks in the hospital, it helped me heal and feel better.”

My buddy Jack Witherspoon is barely twelve years old – but he knows a lot about secret ingredients for recipes and life. And he says love is the most important of all.

Jack was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two, went through years of hospital stays and chemotherapy – then relapsed when he was six. His mom, Lisa, recalls: “When Jack relapsed, I was devastated. It meant the chances were down to 50% that he’d survive. They weren’t guaranteeing us anything.”

But in a world with no guarantees, Jack and his mom found something they could always count on.

During one of Jack’s hospital sojourns, he discovered the magic of cooking. “I was channel surfing and found the Food Network. I was totally intrigued!” Jack says. “I asked my mom to write down ingredients so we could make the recipes together when I went home. Cooking was something super-fun that even having leukemia couldn’t stop me from doing.”

Jacks Family Photos

Lisa remembers when her six-year-old son announced that he had a new life goal. “Jack looked so little sitting there in the back seat of the car. He didn’t have any hair, but he had a big smile on his face when he told me ‘Mom, I want to be a chef when I grow up’.

“I told Jack that now when we cooked together, he would be in training for his new profession,” Lisa tells me. “It’s funny: I’d never paid much attention to cooking before – I was always so busy. But when your child tells you something like that, everything changes.

“Cooking together gave us a focus that kept everyone’s energy going. Instead of concentrating on all the negative things, we found a positive energy that’s helped get us through some of the hardest times.”

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