Flavours of Change: How Life Kitchen helped this couple rediscover the joy of food (Evening Standard)

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Cookery classes set up for people living with cancer has helped the Masseys find happiness in the face of a devastating diagnosis. Victoria Stewart

As soon as Karen Massey heard about Life Kitchen, a series of specialised cooking classes designed for people living with cancer and their families, she booked herself and her husband, Nick, into a class in London.

Life Kitchen was set up by a young food writer and stylist from Newcastle named Ryan Riley by way of a tribute to his mother Krista, who had died of small-cell lung cancer. There has been national news coverage, support from celebrities including the comedian Sue Perkins and the food writer Nigella Lawson, and cookery classes hosted by the likes of TV chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver.

“I’d grown up watching these people on TV, it was ridiculous! And yet they all supported me from day one!” says Riley, who admits his project has beaten any of his initial expectations.

The response has indeed been massive. Since starting Life Kitchen last year, Riley has held around nine sell-out classes across the country, in Dorset, Manchester, his home town Newcastle and London.

Having worked with Professor Barry Smith, a world leader in taste and the sense at the University of London, they developed an original set of recipes that had “strong, flavourful flavours and were fresh and easy to do,” including umami-rich things such as miso paste, caramelised onions and mushrooms, that could create a flavour burst, even to people who had lost their sense of taste.

For the Masseys, attending the class was transformative.

When they first met, aged 57, on an online dating platform in 2014, going out to eat and cooking together was what Karen called their “fun go-to place.”

This article appeared in full in the Evening Standard in September 2018. Read it here.