After losing his mother Krista to small-cell lung cancer four years ago, 25-year-old Ryan Riley was inspired to set up Life Kitchen, a charity offering free UK-wide cookery classes and food events for people living with cancer. The idea, a first of its kind at the time, came to him after seeing her lose her sense of taste while battling the disease.
Who is he?
Riley was a self-taught food writer and stylist but when a tweet explaining the concept of Life Kitchen went viral last year, Riley suddenly found himself being contacted by the likes of Nigella Lawson, Sue Perkins and Jamie Oliver all offering their support. Within a week of his initial social media post, his GoFundMe page had raised over £10,000.
How does it work?
For those suffering with cancer or in the process of undergoing chemotherapy treatment, the change in their sense of smell can be heartbreaking. Many report a heightened salty or metallic taste, while for some, their sense of taste disappears entirely. For Riley, this meant watching his mother withdraw from social situations that included food and lose her love of eating. Life Kitchen isn’t about health or healing, but finding food happiness and nourishing the soul through dishes that genuinely taste good. The focus at the workshops is on experiment and enjoyment; he wants his guests to learn how to make food that’ll make their days that bit better. Some dishes focus on stronger umami tones; a few include mint and horseradish, to trigger the trigeminal nerve between the eyes, nose and mouth. It’s a family-run affair – Ryan’s dad is the MD and his sisters are the admin and account executives, but they’ve far from gone it alone: alongside the celebrity support, Riley worked with Professor Barry Smith who co-directs the Centre for the Study of Senses to develop recipes using scientifically proven formulas.
Where can I find him?
Riley teaches guests free of charge alongside his best friend and co-founder Kimberley Duke, who also lost her mother to cancer at a young age, at their Sunderland workshop.
Mowbray Park Lodge South, Mowbray Park, Toward Road, Sunderland, SR2 8DP; lifekitchen.co.uk.