Researching BRUNCH: How the ELLICSR Kitchen Came to be

Written By Josh To

Have you ever had a dish that just blew you away with incredible flavours and textures?

A few weeks ago I had a tomato & barley salad that just blew me away. It was an incredible marriage of flavours, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. The chef showed me how I could make the recipe at home and taught me about the ingredients. His culinary partner, a registered dietitian, explained that this recipe was not only delicious, but healthy too.

All this happened in the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre's ELLICSR Kitchen, located in the basement of Toronto General Hospital. You might not expect a hospital to have a trained culinary chef on staff outside of the Nutrition Services, but a research study done by ELLICSR says that’s exactly where a chef should be.

It all started about four years ago. ELLICSR researchers wondered if demonstrating healthy recipes while incorporating healthy diet education would help cancer patients improve their eating habits. Studies have shown that cancer survivors often make changes in food choices to improve quality of life and survival rates1, 2, 3, 4, which may decrease risk of cancer recurrence and second primary cancers 5, 6. So ELLICSR researchers invited chefs from George Brown College Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts (including Geremy Capone) and the Princess Margaret dietitians to partner with colorectal cancer survivors who had completed treatment on a pilot study called: “BRUNCH” – Building Recipes and Understanding Nutrition for Cancer-Survivor Health.



The research team knew that patients wanted recipes that were simple, healthy, and most certainly tasty, so the chefs and dietitians got to work creating nutritious and delicious recipes. They came up with things like a hearty Black Bean Soup and refreshing Tropical Pineapple Sorbet. Then came the fun part: the demonstrations! The chefs taught patient participants about the ingredients, skills and tools needed to recreate the recipes and make their own dishes at home.

The pilot was a success! The participants expressed that they were likely to include these recipes in their diet and half of them felt that the recipes might even help them change their eating habits. In fact, it went so well that Geremy joined the ELLICSR team in 2010 to develop the ELLICSR Kitchen program. Christy Brissette, a registered dietitian, joined the team about a year later. Now it’s hard to imagine ELLICSR without its vibrant Kitchen program. On the first three Thursdays each month, the ELLICSR Kitchen fills up with patients, caregivers and roaring laughter as Geremy and Christy demonstrate their latest healthy and tasty recipes.

I would never have guessed that the ELLICSR Kitchen started as a research study. It is incredible to see how a small research study grew into a wonderful program for patients and caregivers. I find it inspiring when research studies (like BRUNCH) have a lasting ripple-effect on improving the quality of patient care. One of ELLICSR’s goals is to do research that transforms the cancer experience, and, well, the proof is in the pudding.


To learn more about the findings from the BRUNCH research study, check out the paper published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

The BRUNCH study was supported with funds received through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation and approved by the UHN Research Ethics Board.



  1. Blanchard CM, Denniston MM, Baker F, et al. Do adults change their lifestyle behaviors after a cancer diagnosis? Am J Health Behav. 2003;27:246-256.
  2. Blanchard CM, Courneya KS, Stein K. Cancer survivors’ adherence to lifestyle behavior recommendations and associations with health-related quality of life: results from the American Cancer Society’s SCS-II. J Clin Oncol. 2008;26:2198-2204.
  3. Irwin ML, Mayne ST. Impact of nutrition and exercise on cancer survival. Cancer J. 2008;14:435-441.
  4. Miller PE, Vasey JJ, Short PF, Hartman TJ. Dietary supplement use in adult cancer survivors. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2009;36:61-68.
  5. Linn M, Linn BS, Stein SR. Beliefs about causes of cancer in cancer patients. Soc Sci Med. 1982;16:835-839.
  6. Brown, J. K., Byers, T., Doyle, C., et al. Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Cancer Treatment: An American Cancer Society Guide for Informed Choices. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2003;53: 268–291. doi: 10.3322/canjclin.53.5.268