When Ryan Riley lost his beloved mum Krista to cancer over 5 years ago, it had an unsurprisingly devastating impact on him and his family. Throughout her 2 year battle and debilitating chemotherapy treatment, Ryan, a food writer and stylist, was by her side. One of the most depressing consequences of Krista’s treatment was her loss of taste and how it affected her enjoyment of food. After her death and as a special tribute to his beloved mum, Ryan set out on a mission to help others living with cancer and those with palates affected by treatment to rediscover the pleasure of taste and flavour. In a short space of time, an idea had turned into multi-award-winning free cookery courses, a cookery school and a cookbook.
We were thrilled to host Ryan and the debut Life Kitchen classes here at River Cottage back in 2018, welcoming guests to join the free sessions and learn how to transform ingredients into flavoursome dishes to lift meal times. Since then Ryan’s energy, focus and enthusiasm has been matched by his team’s commitment, a successful crowdfunding campaign and the support of high profile people including Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Sue Perkins and our very own Hugh.
We caught up with Ryan following publication of his debut cookbook Life Kitchen.
Ryan, huge congratulations on the publication of ‘Life Kitchen’, how long has it taken you to put this book together?
Thanks so much! This book has been two years in the making and I can’t quite believe it’s out in the world. It was such a personal process, very intense, and way harder than you’d ever think.
What is the premise behind the recipes?
Life Kitchen focuses on taste and flavour. We look to create recipes that help bring back the joys of food after cancer treatment. We’re not medical, not even nutritional (although lots of recipes are well balanced by accident!)
Which signature recipes would you recommend someone starts with?
Sticky Gochujang Cauliflower, Parmesan Cod with Salt and Vinegar Cucumber, Miso white chocolate with frozen berries (it’s the new salted caramel)
What medical and nutritional advice did you take when you were putting this together?
Life Kitchen’s main focus is on recipes that people can enjoy. We inform our recipes through our work with the likes of Professor Barry Smith and leading charities like the World Cancer Research Fund.
What is next for Life Kitchen and for you?
A nap...and lots more free cookery classes UK-wide, maybe even world world-wide. We’re so excited to return to River Cottage sometime soon.
Ryan Riley is the co-founder of Life Kitchen, which provides free UK-wide cookery lessons for people living with cancer and won Observer Food Monthly’s Award for Best Ethical Food Project in 2018. The initiative gained immediate support from the public, press and celebrity champions, and Ryan has collaborated with River Cottage, Daylesford and the Jamie Oliver Cookery School to run his signature cookery classes, before opening a permanent Life Kitchen Cookery School in his hometown of Sunderland in 2019.
Ryan is also an established food writer and stylist, who has worked for print publications such as Sainsbury’s Magazine, Waitrose Food and BBC Good Food. Ryan’s debut cookbook Life Kitchen is published by Bloomsbury is on sale now. He lives in London with his partner