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Chef goes from kitchen to operating room at Nebraska Medicine

Posted at 2:40 PM, Nov 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-24 16:28:47-05

A five star chef made a move to Nebraska to help heal patients at the Buffett Cancer Center with his healthy cooking. But he would learn sometimes we need to help ourselves, before we can serve others.

Inside the kitchen at "The Restaurant" at the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, the kitchen staff is buzzing. Plates clink and the man in charge of all of the lunch rush chaos is smooth, calm, and collected.  

"You need any help you need anything?" he offers a cook.

The guy in charge, chef Tim Jones is all about caring and healing others, through the culinary. He's worked in banquets at some of the local casinos, but before that worked at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. He opened "The Restaurant" when the Buffett Cancer Center opened in May. The white table cloth dinning room is open to the public, but Jones's menu is clearly mindful of the patients.

"I did some research and came with a Big Ten list of Big Ten ingredients that help you fight or prevent cancer," he explained to KMTV back in July. 

"Our mother is battling a bit of cancer, and it was the perfect thing for her to eat today," one patron said. 

It's something that Jones is deeply passionate about. 

"When I'm at work and I'm in that zone, you forget about anything that bothers you," he said.

Sometimes, though, there's only so much a person can do before your body takes control. For Jones, it was a genetic ailment. He had known about his own diagnosis, but it got worse. Now the chef, on a mission to heal with meals, had some healing to do of his own. It was a diagnosis that haunted him. 

"Polycystic kidney disease. My mother had it, and now I have it. My mother had polycystic kidney disease and I watched her go from the kidney transplant, to the transplant failing, to her going on dialysis, to watching her totally change," he explained.

From work to finding a match, to surgery at Nebraska Medicine, the workplace became his healthcare place. The next steps happened quickly. Tim's wife, Jennifer, was his match. Family flew in to help them both recover and watch their daughter. Tim and Jennifer call it a series of blessings, strengthening them as parents and partners. 

"I think we're a great team now," he said. 

"Definitely will always be connected," she says, laughing."We don't take things for granted. Everything is a gift, this whole thing is a gift for us."

Tim Jones went back to work in early November at the Buffett Cancer Center. He still cooks up a storm to feed others stomachs and souls, but now has a new ingredient. 

"If someone is I can sympathize going to all of the doctors appointments. You know what that gloom and doom is like," he said.