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Gesundheit: Chef Survives Gastric Cancer, Shares Hope

Network - Summer 2011

By Lindsey Garner

Rueffert and family: 
(clockwise) Finn, Amy and Ella

Acclaimed chef and cookbook author Hans Rueffert understands the irony of having been diagnosed with stomach cancer six years ago.

Seventy pounds lighter and in remission, the 38-year-old retains a passion for life and for food.

Rueffert grew up in northern Georgia, spending much of his time in the kitchen of his family’s business, the Woodbridge Inn.

“There’s a social side of food — that’s what I remember,” he says. “I salivate when thinking of my grandmother’s house.”

In July 2005, the day before his 33rd birthday and just two weeks after taping the finale of the “Next Food Network Star,” in which he placed third, Rueffert was diagnosed with stage 3 gastric (stomach) cancer.

The Ruefferts had lost Hans’ sister Sonja to breast cancer just the year before.

“We’d explained cancer to the kids as a boogeyman that took their aunt, and it was tough to tell them that now I had cancer,” he says.

“But I opted to be transparent and open with myself, my family and my community about my cancer.”

First, he had surgery at MD Anderson to remove half his stomach and half his esophagus. Then he underwent chemotherapy and radiation at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.

Facing complications with wit, candor

Rueffert returned to MD Anderson in August 2010 to address a leak at the junction of his stomach and esophagus, as well as a brain infection due to an abscess in his back that was caused by the leak.

Despite several surgical procedures to stop the leaking and infections, the remaining portion of his stomach was eventually removed during a procedure called a gastrectomy.

To gain weight, Rueffert eats a high-fat, high-protein diet and uses a plant-based protein supplement that he mixes into smoothies and juices. 

Rueffert has chronicled his cancer journey with honesty and wit on his blog He signs each post “Gesundheit” — a nod to his German heritage and a wish for good health for his readers.

His cookbook, “Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow,” takes readers on a narrative adventure through food and life. Besides recipes — Rueffert prefers the term “suggestions” — are stories of his battle with cancer and his love of food and family.

“Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow” is available on

Besides running the Woodbridge Inn with wife Amy, Rueffert teaches wellness classes at Piedmont Hospital.

He’s also on the board of directors for the Gastric Cancer Fund and is an Anderson Network telephone support volunteer.

“It’s been rewarding working with Anderson Network,” he says. “Talking to patients who are incredibly scared, and telling them I was there five years ago, and I’m doing OK.”

Hans Rueffert will conduct a healthy cooking demonstration during Anderson Network’s Cancer Survivorship Conference Sept. 17. Go to the conference website for more information or to register.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center