A food photographer's cancer journey ends, giving rise to a cookbook with recipes by some of Canada's top chefs

Inspired Cooking, featuring dishes by Angus An, Stefan Hartmann, Ned Bell, and others, was Julia Pelish's dream

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      Adrian Brijbassi’s late wife, Julia Pelish, may not have been the most adventurous eater around, but she was a highly skilled food photographer.

      Based in Vancouver, she and Brijbassi, a writer, cofounded the Canadian-travel website vacay.ca and often worked on other projects together. One of them came about after Pelish was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive form of brain cancer, in 2015.

      Adrian Brijbassi and his wife, Julia Pelish, in Tofino in April 2015.

      The couple joined InspireHealth, a not-for-profit organization that provides supportive cancer care for people with cancer and their families.

      The Vancouver centre is founded on a “person-based” model of care, in which individuals play a driving role in their own health and well-being. People’s mind, body, and spirit are all considered when it comes to treating cancer.

      Its medical professionals work in tandem with patients’ own oncologists or other doctors, and its services—clinical care as well as programs on stress reduction, positive lifestyle changes, and personal coaching—are all free.

      Pelish took great comfort in the care she received at InspireHealth, and she and Brijbassi decided that, to thank the centre, they would create a cookbook. With her behind the lens and him at the computer keyboard, it would feature some of Canada’s best chefs discussing what nutrition means to them and sharing healthy recipes.

      Sadly, Pelish succumbed to the disease in 2016, dying in her partner’s arms. They had just started working on their book a week earlier.

      Brijbassi went on to fulfill the pair’s dream, with the recently released Inspired Cooking.

      With many of Pelish’s photographs, the beautiful, colourful book includes entries by 21 chefs from across the country, including Michael Smith and Dale MacKay. Among the West Coast luminaries featured are Vikram Vij; Burdock & Co’s Andrea Carlson; Warren Barr of the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino; and James Walt, executive chef of Whistler’s Araxi Restaurant and Oyster Bar.

       Inspired Cooking features a recipe for Araxi Restaurant and Oyster Bar executive chef James Walt's Halibut & Beet Salad.

      Inspired Cooking also shares several personal stories of cancer survivors who focus on nutrition as one way to deal with the disease. 

      “For me, the cookbook is an expression of love and ongoing devotion to my wife,” Brijbassi writes in his editor’s note. “Julia would be ecstatic to know her idea has manifested into one of the most important cookbooks to be produced in Canada.”

      Proceeds will be directed to InspireHealth.