Monday 12 April 2021

TASTE & FLAVOUR by Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke

It's very rare to come across people that you can honestly call 100% selfless, but those are the only words that come to mind when describing the remarkable Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke. This duo have set themselves the task of reimagining the way we eat, so that those with a compromised sense of taste and smell can once again enjoy the experience of aroma and flavour. From humble beginnings in Sunderland to a sudden worldwide frenzy of interest last week, the pair have just launched a Covid recovery cookbook entitled Taste & Flavour, and the response has been understandably incredible.

When Ryan Riley set up Life Kitchen back in 2017 it was a real labour of love. He had lost his mother to lung cancer and, on top of the already debilitating disease, he was confronted with the realisation that her sense of taste and her ability to smell had also been affected. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy had compromised both of these, and so the joyful experience of eating had also been lost. The emphasis on cancer treatment is survival, but Ryan also realised that a plate of grey tasting food was not going to provide any additional motivation.

So, in conjunction with Kimberley Duke and Professor Barry Smith, but not forgetting the support of his sister Rachael, he set about creating recipes that provided texture where flavour was missing - but which also could be enjoyed by the entire family. Life Kitchen was quickly taken to the hearts of Nigella Lawson, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Sue Perkins, which ultimately resulted in a custom-built cookery school being launched in his home town of Sunderland. However, 2020 would see a new challenge emerge for the team when a loss of taste, and a distortion of flavour, became side effects of catching Covid.

If you have any Easter chocolate left then I want you to try a little experiment. Break off a small piece, pinch your nose closed, and then put the chocolate in your mouth. Chew it a little but keep holding your nose. You’ll find there’s no flavour. If you then release your nose you should suddenly get a rush of that familiar chocolate taste. We forget that our appreciation of flavour and our ability to smell go hand in hand. Whilst the new cookery book once again has recipes that provide texture, Covid also has another side effect - as your sense of smell slowly returns, your sense of taste is significantly, and dramatically, altered.

Professor Barry Smith describes this as parosmia, which is “a distorted perception of familiar smells.” What you’re eating will taste like something else, and not always in a good way. Ryan tells us in the book that ingredients such as onions, garlic, meat, and eggs were highlighted as ones to avoid. So the team set about creating seventeen recipes that combined the principles of Life Kitchen with the long term effects of Covid. No one could have foreseen the worldwide interest that this thirty three page book would generate, and I would like to add my own congratulations to the whole team for a truly remarkable, and selfless, achievement.

Taste & Flavour is available as a free download or as a hardback book (there are a limited number of physical copies remaining) via the Life Kitchen website at, and you can also find out more about the company and their courses. Taste & Flavour has been produced in association with Odysea and Sunderland City Council. [Book was purchased]

No comments:

Post a Comment