When a relapse of leukemia struck Jack Witherspoon of Redondo Beach, Calif., at the age of 6, he found the TV Food Network and his love affair with cooking began. First diagnosed as a 2-year old, Jack had undergone 3 years of treatment. The return of leukemia in 2006 forced him from school and into the hospital for intensive treatment.
"During my hospital stays for treatment I got hooked on watching the Food Network. Thats how this whole thing got started. It didnt take long before I decided my dream was to be a chef just like the ones I saw on TV," he says.
In December 2007, Jack and his family held a fundraiser for pediatric leukemia. Called "Cooking Up Dreams," the event starred Jack as guest chef, and all the proceeds—some $36,000—were donated to pediatric leukemia research. Many fundraisers, $100,000 raised for research and countless recipes later, Jack and his mom, Lisa, penned Twist It Up, an inspiring book full of kid-friendly recipes. Each is a "twist" on one of his favorite comfort foods.
Leukemia returned again in June 2011, but 12-year-old Chef Jack is now going strong after finishing his treatment. Blogging, rock-climbing, visiting with his favorite Food Network stars and book signings keep him incredibly busy. And his interest in cooking is unflagging.
"Remember, 99 percent of everything we do depends on us believing we can!" he says. Shout it from the rooftops, Jack.
—Photo reprinted with permission from Jack Witherspoons Twist It Up: More than 60 Delicious Recipes from an Inspiring Young Chef (Chronicle Books, 2011).