Not many teenagers can say they run their own nationally successful business. Not many teenagers can say they've competed on both Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off and Chopped Junior. And not many teenagers can say they've beaten leukemia three times. Nineteen-year-old Jack Witherspoon, however, can say all of those things.
It was during Jack's second relapse with leukemia, when he was just six, that the very beginnings of his business, Chef Jack's Kitchen, started coming together.
"I was stuck in the hospital a lot. I couldn't play sports, couldn't hang out with my friends. But I stumbled across the Food Network, and I fell in love with cooking," Jack told us. "I had my mom write down recipes, we'd go home, we'd make them, and then eventually I started getting a little bit of attention from the media."
After chopping and sautéing his way through multiple national cooking shows (he was on Rach's team on Rachael vs. Guy!), and even releasing his own cookbook, Twist It Up, Jack's interest in food began shifting from savory to sweet. Once he perfected the recipe for his Skonies (part cookie, part scone), Jack knew it was time to go into business.
"I had never really seen anything on the market that was a cross between a cookie and a scone," Jack said. "I was really trying to emulate something that wasn't too sweet, but not like a biscuit. Something that was just sweet enough."
While Jack's Skonies (available in vanilla bean and cinnamon sugar) certainly put a few extra bucks in his pocket, much of the proceeds benefits pediatric leukemia research.
But that's not all Jack is doing for young cancer patients – he's also giving them hope. Skonies will soon be available for purchase in hospital cafeterias, where Jack hopes his treats will inspire hospitalized children to keep fighting.
"I really think that's where my product is most impactful," he said. "You don't want to just survive. You want to thrive and you want to be able to accomplish your dreams, too. Having a cancer survivor that's living his dream – seeing that as a patient I think would be really inspiring, and that's kind of what I want to do."
At not even 20 years old, Jack has already achieved more than most people do in their lifetimes. So is the young chef, baker, and entrepreneur ready to kick back and take a well-deserved break? Well, maybe someday. He still has a few more things he'd like to do first.
"I'd love [my Skonies] to be in all the hospital cafeterias nationwide. I'd love to be in bigger retailers too, all the major grocery chains," he said. "I would also love to tour the hospitals and give cookie demos and speeches, and really help spread the word."
Chef Jack's Skonies are now available in the Cleveland University Hospital cafeteria and will soon be sold at UCLA. Grab your own pack of Skonies here.