Chef Dave Wells has held some impressive cooking gigs. In addition to a stint at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch, he’s run busy restaurants and worked as a personal chef for some big names, including the late Steve Jobs. But the one that has shaped his life most significantly was cooking for his mother during her treatment for late-stage ovarian cancer back in 1994.
Certainly graduating with high honors from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, had given Wells an impressive skill set, but cooking for cancer was a different challenge altogether. Upon his mother’s diagnosis, he buried himself in the Stanford Medical School library. He then combined his scientific findings with his intuition to create a program to offset the effects of chemotherapy and nourish her back to health. And though his recipes were super healthy and packed with nutrients, they were also soothing culinary delights. “I started with foods that were comforting to my mom. Meals that would also positively affect her mood,” says Wells.
Since helping his mother recover and stay cancer-free until her death from Alzheimer’s complications this past May, he has developed a deep expertise in cancer nutrition and has shared that knowledge via cancer support groups by creating personalized nutrition plans for private clients, as well as through his recent book The Caregiver’s Companion—a short guide that helps loved ones navigate how to comfort and care for those going through treatment.
“I think the piece that makes the most difference when helping someone recover is first really listening to them. What do they believe in? Where are they with what’s happening? What do they need to have the most hope?” explains Wells, who notes it’s easy to think you know what is best for someone, but ultimately you have to follow their lead. “When they know you are solely there for them and their care, they can really receive the power of healing.”
The Caregiver’s Companion is full of stories, nutrition tips, recipes, and guidance around food rituals and conscious cooking and eating. There are suggestions for easing nausea, like ginger tea and Wells’s “Bowl of Sunshine Soup”; foods to rebuild the GI tract, such as unpasteurized miso; and those that detoxify the body, like his “Burdock Salad.” It’s just one way that Wells is making his mark on the world. “My goal is to help a million people survive cancer. Of course, I also want to get to people before they have disease—educate them on how to nourish and protect their bodies using food.”
When he is not working as a personal chef, nutrition coach or personal trainer, Wells is working hard to bring his word to the people, by speaking at hospitals, schools and companies. He has also put a lot of his knowledge down on paper, writing four books, including his highly engaging memoir, From Hunger with Love, which chronicles his transformation from a troubled teen to a successful chef, businessman and, most importantly, a wellness crusader. “I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to act as a mirror for people, to listen and then reflect back my knowledge. Deep humility comes from this transfer of back and forth.”
To learn more, visit davewellness.com