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Chef Jack Cooking up Success

Chef Jack Witherspoon hosts his first-ever signing of his cookbook, "Twist it Up," at HT Grill in Riviera Village.

One Sunday afternoon in January, Redondo Beach's very own celebrity chef was cooking up eggplant parmesan with 's executive chef in the restaurant's kitchen.

As television cameras taped and photographers took pictures of Jack Witherspoon, 11, he layered the dish with parmesan cheese and marinara sauce.

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But Jack wasn't just cooking up some delectable dishes—he was also hold his first-ever signing of his new cookbook, Twist it Up. By the end of the evening, he had signed more than 100 copies.

The young chef first learned to cook at age 6 by watching the Food Network during his second bout of leukemia.

"I just decided to do a cookbook because I had so many good recipes," Jack told assembled reporters.

Countless recipes and another cancer battle later—he's currently in remission—Twist it Up was finally published.

Everything in Jack's cookbook has earned the stamp of approval from an especially important person in his life: his 9-year-old brother Josh.

"I like the ribs a lot and the turkey stroganoff," Josh told Patch. "I pretty much like all of [the recipes]—none of them are bad … [Taste-testing] was really fun … I always had good compliments."

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And his family members aren't the only ones taking note of Jack's talent in the kitchen.

"[Jack is] kicking some serious butt in the food industry," said Fabio Viviani, the chef at Firenze Osteria and a former contestant on Top Chef All Stars.

Jack also has local fans. When the Hollywood Riviera resident was much younger, the Witherspoons would visit and it's co-owner, Robert Bell.

"I think I'm a little bit of a mentor to him," said Bell, who is also a chef, "and I think he's a little bit of a mentor to me … He's the sort of kid adults learn from."

Bell also mentioned that there were preliminary plans for Jack to be a guest chef at Chez Melange at some point in February.

As for the cookbook, "I like the concept," Bell said. "I've never used the term, 'twist it up,' but a lot of times we use classic dishes and give them a little twist, a little sizzle."

Bell wasn't the only one who praised Jack's cookbook. Dr. Ted Moore, Jack's doctor at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital, said he got the opportunity to see the first draft of the book.

"The Norwegian pancakes grabbed me … They were delicious," Moore said. By adding fresh blueberries to the recipe, "I did my own little twist on it."

Moore also recalled how Jack was put on a very limited diet after his bone marrow transplant in the fall. Because of his weakened immune system, he couldn't eat anything that could be a significant carrier of germs, such as uncooked foods and sushi. Over time, many of the restrictions on Jack's diet have been lifted.

"Everything in his cookbook is fair game," Moore said.

Part of the proceeds from the sale of Twist it Up are donated to the Jack Witherspoon Permanent Endowment at Miller Children's Hospital in Long Beach and to the Beckstrand Cancer Foundation in Newport Beach. The cookbook is available online at Amazon as well as at bookstore in Manhattan Beach.


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