More than 30 Peter Mac patients, family members and carers were today treated to a special three-course lunch created and plated by one of Melbourne’s top executive chefs Benjamin Cooper, the force behind our city’s Asian dining sensation Chin Chin restaurant.

An annual event on Peter Mac’s calendar, the ‘Guest Chef’ luncheon is hosted by the centre’s team of dietitians. It is designed to help patients re-discover their passion for nutritious food during or after their cancer treatment.

Benjamin and his team at Chin Chin donated their time, skills and ingredients to bring the event to life, while Peter Mac staff swapped their scrubs for aprons to deliver Benjamin’s creations to their patients.

Twenty years ago, when Benjamin was a second-year apprentice, he lost his mother to leukaemia.  Now at the height of his career, he is humbled to have the opportunity to give back to people impacted by cancer.

“When I lost my mum I didn’t know anyone who had died from cancer, now I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been in some way touched by this disease,” said Benjamin, 41.

“It is important to me to support, embrace and acknowledge the amazing work of Peter Mac.

“I am blown away by how incredible Peter Mac is. I wish my mother could have had the same comfort through her fight.”

Peter Mac’s Head of Nutrition and Speech Pathology Dr Nicole Kiss says Peter Mac’s Guest Chef event helps to support patients who may experience nausea, loss of appetite or  taste changes during their treatment which – if not closely monitored – can lead to food aversion, a vicious cycle with malnutrition then impeding the body’s ability to fight the disease.  

Dr Kiss said the Guest Chef luncheon also serves as reminder to patients that nutritious food can also be tasty.

“This is an important consideration for our patients who are undergoing cancer treatment and are often required to alter their diet and nutritional intake in order to maintain a healthy weight,” she said.

Peter Mac patient Natalia Dewiyani, who in 2015 was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma and then successfully treated for the rare cancer, says the luncheon was a great opportunity to spend time and have a laugh with friends and loved ones while enjoying restaurant quality food in comfortable and familiar surrounds.

“When I was undergoing treatment I found I wasn’t able to go out to restaurants much at all because my immune system was so depleted – and you also find yourself not enjoying food as much as you once did,” said 38-year-old Natalia, who has recently undergone further treatment for Melanoma.

“It was just fantastic to have one of Melbourne’s best restaurants come to Peter Mac to remind us all just how nurturing great food can be.”

For entrée guests were treated to cauliflower soup with chopped prawn, main course was twice cooked coconut braised beef served with a selection of delicious sides including coconut rice, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), stir fried noodles, roasted pumpkin and charred cabbage with soy.  Dessert was a fruit plate dressed with chilli sugar and an apple jelly with coconut sago, coconut sorbet, toasted coconut, lime syrup and cashew praline.

An image of our patient Natalia helps Chef Benjamin Cooper prepare for service last week
Our patient Natalia helps Chef Benjamin Cooper prepare for service last week

Benjamin has also adapted a popular Chin Chin menu item – a crab omelette – for home cooking and released the recipe publically for the event. This once top secret recipe is now available for Peter Mac’s patients and the community to try at home in honour of the occasion. Read and download the full recipe here.

Peter Mac’s Guest Chef event is now in its 17th year. Other celebrity chefs who have generously donated their time to Peter Mac include Frank Camorra (Movida), George Calombaris (Gazi), Andrew McConnell (Cumulus Inc) and Adam D’Sylva (Coda).

The event was held in Peter Mac’s brand new patient Wellbeing Centre – a sanctuary where patients, families and carers can escape the hustle and bustle of the hospital.

Contacts:

For more information or to arrange an interview with Benjamin Cooper from Chin Chin or Nicole Kiss from Peter Mac please contact the Peter Mac Communications team on 0417 123 048.

*Above image Courtesy of David  Caird / Herald Sun