Redondo Beach Chef Jack Witherspoon Turns a Passion for Baking into a Way to Give Back
Recipe for success.
- CategoryEat & Drink, People
- Written byDarren Elms
- Photographed byMonica Orozco
A three-time leukemia survivor, Jack Witherspoon was first diagnosed when he was only age 2. During his first relapse, he spent five or six days in the hospital each month for a full year to receive continuous infusions of chemo.
“I was confined to my bed and would get bored just lying there watching cartoons,” he remembers. “One night I was channel surfing and happened to stumble upon some cooking shows. It really caught my attention, and before long I was hooked.”
The budding chef soon became obsessed with recipes and creating new dishes. So with his mom’s help, he would make meals for his family. “I wasn’t allowed to go to school or play sports, but leukemia couldn’t stop me from cooking,” he shares.
“It was hard and a true test of my resilience, but I kept believing in myself. I think experiencing adversity has made me try even harder to make a difference.”
Jack has appeared on numerous talk shows and cooking competitions on Food Network, garnering him a devoted following. He began doing charity work to raise money for cancer research after his first relapse. As cooking became the creative outlet that helped him get through his own challenges during his treatment, he realized it was the perfect vehicle for his fundraising.
When one of his fans offered to finance his business, Jack took the offer and created Chef Jack’s Kitchen. His Skonies, a cross between a cookie and a scone, became his passion. Today Jack and his Skonies have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for pediatric leukemia research. He also established his own endowment at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital in Long Beach and has a patient room named after him.
“When I was 11 and relapsed a second time, I had to have a bone marrow transplant,” he shares. “It was hard and a true test of my resilience, but I kept believing in myself. I think experiencing adversity has made me try even harder to make a difference.”
You can find Skonies at mom-and-pop markets throughout the South Bay as well as online at chefjackskitchen.com.