Cooking With Stomach Cancer

A chef with no stomach? The irony isn't lost on Hans Rueffert, the Jasper, GA, chef and author of the cookbook Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow. Shortly after finishing third in the Next Food Network Star TV series in 2005, Hans was diagnosed with Stage III stomach cancer.

He had his stomach and half his esophagus removed, dropped more than 100 lbs, and did a swift 180 on his approach to food and cooking. “In the past seven years, I’ve had 11 surgeries,” says Hans, a board member of the Gastric Cancer Foundation. Treated for a severe infection following one of the surgeries, Hans was hospitalized for seven weeks, with his only nutrition reaching him via a feeding tube. That’s when he started rethinking his approach to food.

“I’ve gone from quantity to quality,” says Hans, who admits he used to eat until he was “miserably full.” “Now, I physically can’t eat that much. So along with eating less, I eat more slowly.” With his newly fashioned stomach, Hans eats four to six small meals or snacks.

He also tries to keep calm, since anxiety is as harmful to him as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Even the slightest stress feels like “there’s a hand in my throat strangling me,” says Hans.

Oh, and about that book title: The idea behind Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow isn't that you should pig out as if these were your last 24 hours on earth, Hans stresses. Instead, what would you eat if it were your last meal? What would you truly enjoy? Hans has a ready answer: “A thick slice of dark German bread, a bit of cheese and a smear of fig preserves.” And to drink? “The old me would have washed it down with beer or wine. Today, just a little sparkling mineral water is a refreshing palate cleanser.”

Published September 2013

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