I am thrilled to have one of the first indies I became friends with at cons on my blog today. Chef Ryan has some awesome products (a cookbook that breaks things down super simply…that is also a COLORING BOOK!? Yes, please!)
I hope you like this interview as much as I did and follow all his projects! He deserves all the love.
ISO: HI, WHAT IS YOUR NAME?
CRC: Chef Ryan Callahan
Cooking for Chemo
ISO: What is your favorite beverage?
CRC: Favorite beverage is a difficult question, as there are many things I really do enjoy, and if that didn’t make it more difficult my tastes change with the seasons as well! Right now I’m in love with freshly brewed sweet tea. When I drink alcohol I like a nice rye whisky, a dark milk stout, and I prefer Italian wines over French wines.
ISO: What is your favorite food?
CRC: I love so many different foods! But, I would have to say that my favorite would be General Tso’s Chicken. I worked at a Chinese restaurant for many years, and as a result many of my go-to comfort foods are of the Chinese variety!
ISO: What is your favorite sweet?
CRC: I love ice cream and gelato. I don’t care if it is January, in the middle of a blizzard, I can eat ice cream. Chocolate custard with cookie dough is my current favorite. A funny fact, aside from ice cream I don’t really care for overly sweet desserts. I prefer Chinese and East Asian sweets as they are less sweet than American or European sweets. There are these little Cantonese cookies that have this wonderful lemon filling that I buy on occasion, and to me they are like crack. I eat one and next thing you know half the package is gone!
ISO: Tell me a little about yourself.
CRC: I am Chef Ryan Callahan, founder of Cooking for Chemo and Callahan Publishing. Currently, I travel the country working with cancer patients, and their caregivers to help them understand the taste and flavor perception changes that occur during and after cancer treatments. In addition to this I am a geek, anime enthusiast, manga reader, and avid video gamer. I have a branch of my company Callahan Publishing dedicated to creating comics. We’re currently working on a release called Pizza Bros, which is all about working in a pizza restaurant as a delivery driver. I am currently seeking a new artist to work on that title.
ISO: When did you realize you were a weirdie?
CRC: I have always been outgoing and charismatic, and I always assumed that everyone else was too. It really wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that not everyone was like me, and that I was the person who made everyone else more entertaining! I don’t know if I’d describe myself as weird, but I do know that I’m strange hahahaha. It took me a long time to understand that as a highly creative person the way I perceive the world, how I think, and the answers that I come up with to problems are completely different than other people, and that is okay. In fact, its better than okay, it is amazing. We spend so much time trying to define “normal” but 150 years ago this idea didn’t even exist. Everyone and everything was slightly different because everything was made by hand. Mass production and industrialization made a world where you had to fit into these pre-exising size molds. But by nature, humans are unbelievably varied. We are artificially fitting ourselves into clothes, jobs, and cars that don’t quite fit right for everyone but fit well enough for most people. People who don’t fit are called “weird” and then you can disregard them. Just remember, normal isn’t desirable. So many people say the word normal like it is something that strange people desire to be. But let me tell you, I don’t want to be normal! Normal means average, or common. In latin, the word for common is vulgar. In English, Vulgar means offensive. So, never forget that being common is offensive.
Most of the people in my family are the highly successful types (think doctors, lawyers, businessmen, etc). So there was an unbelievable amount of pressure on me to perform at a high level, get into a good college, and to select a profession that would provide a substantial regular income. But, what I learned after dropping out of three colleges and trying to pursue careers in an innumerable amount of career tracks, being normal sucks, and it just isn’t for me. I am so much happier being the master of my own destiny, and running my own creative businesses. So as the old (new) adage goes “Let your freak flag fly!” Hahaha. I think what I’m trying to say here is that it is okay to be different and that sometimes it can take a long time to find yourself, and that is okay too.
ISO: When did you start cooking?
CRC: My foray into cooking started when I was very young. When I was 6, I wanted an easy bake oven for Christmas. After that, I would try to cook and experimented in the kitchen all through childhood. Eventually, I took cooking classes in High School, and worked at a Quizno’s during high school. Making food for people, and watching their days go from bad to good became an obsession of mine. I wanted to learn how to make all the food in the world. That is a passion that I still pursue to this day.
ISO: Who are your weirdie idols? Unconventional people you look up to.
CRC: This is really such a hard question for me, because I don’t look up to people or idolize anyone. There are lots of people who inspire me to keep going and even more people who’s contributions I appreciate but there isn’t anyone I specifically idolize. I say this because when you idolize a person they are eventually going to let you down, because they are only human.
That being said, when I’m working on comics, I love to reference Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball series. The ability for him to capture action, comedy, and a smooth flow of action sequences naturally drawing your eye through the panel to the next words or action is beyond inspiring to me. In comedy, I really appreciate the contributions of Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, and Eddie Murphy. Being a little more introspective, I would say that I admire writers, creator, and pioneers. I really admire the people who dedicate themselves to creating for the sake of creating. I honestly believe that Jerry Seinfeld would still be exactly the same (albeit less wealthy) if his comedy career had never taken off. He’s just out there being him, and that is something I genuinely admire. I admire honesty.
ISO: What are your Weirdie or geek hobbies?
CRC: My hobbies are pretty standard geek fare I think.
I love anime, here’s a list of a few that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Dragon Ball (+ Z, and Super), Akira, anything made by Studio Ghibli, Trigun, Sword Art Online, etc
I love Shonen manga (14+), but lately have been enjoying a foray into Seinen manga (18+). There are so many amazing managaka. The fact that they not only write the story but do the art with an almost non-existant budget and virtually no support staff is unbelievable, and so inspiring. Some ones I’ve read lately that I thoroughly enjoyed were Blame!, Himoto Umaru-Chan!, Boku no Hero Academia, and a few more that I can’t remember the names of at the moment.
I love Sci-Fi, old and new for example Stargate, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Flash Gordon, Doctor Who, etc.
Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, etc
I loved the Halo series, borderlands series, and so many more. I like RPG’s, strategy games, and First Person Shooters.
I also enjoy building models!
Fun fact, I’m also an experienced web designer, graphic designer, and video producer.
ISO: What are your favorite recipes in your books?
CRC: My favorite recipes are the ones that are simple, but delicious. For example, my chili, chicken and dumplings, bruchetta with ricotta and peaches, and pasta alla marco. Honestly though, I don’t put recipes into my books that I myself didn’t like to begin with. When you open one of my books you are getting a true snap shot of who I am and what I love to eat.
ISO: What is something you want to cook but probably never will?
CRC: This is almost a trick question. Recipes for me are like most book lover’s collections. I have a collection of historical and novel cookbooks in my collection, and I have them divided into almost three categories: books I use constantly, books I intend to use but probably never will, and books that I bought knowing full well that I will never read them but I like to look at them and think about them. Hahaha. I would love to learn how to work with wild North American game, but I honestly probably never will. I’m a pretty basic beef, pork, and chicken kind of guy.
ISO: How did you decide to focus on cooking for chemo?
CRC: Cooking for Chemo was something I started because it was necessary. I’ll be honest, I never envisioned myself working with cancer patients but that is where I ended up because I was the best person to do the job. Back in 2013, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I became her full time live in caregiver. It was rough. But during this time, I learned how to adjust for the taste and flavor perception changes that occur during and after cancer treatments. At the time I was desperately searching for anything that would help with building an appetite and to help with metallic tastes. There was almost no info out there that was even remotely helpful, and what did exist was superstitious at best. So, after I figured out the recipe for success I realized I had to get it out to other people. I wrote an 18 page pamphlet to give to cancer patients and caregivers, but after my wife Jessie read it she convinced me to turn it into a full-length book with fuller explanation, recipes, and exercises to help people understand the lessons better. After publishing Cooking for Chemo …and After! in 2015 it became my life mission and purpose to help cancer patients live a better quality of life during and after cancer treatments.
ISO: What do you love about what you are doing?
CRC: Honestly, what’s not to love? I get to make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis, and it is unbelievably rewarding. The letters that I receive every now and then from cancer fighters detailing how not only did their quality of life improve, but that they had the strength and energy to beat cancer is in itself all the reward I will ever need.
ISO: What is the most difficult thing for you about what you do?
CRC: The most difficult part is telling people that they are valuable, that they matter, and that they need to speak up for themselves even if it makes them inconvenient. To me, every person is valuable no matter what, and so many people are used to putting their needs under another person’s needs. In certain situations this can be a healthy selfless action. But, during cancer treatments the cancer fighter is the single most important person in the room all the time. So many of these cancer fighters don’t want to be a burden on their family to the point that they are literally starving instead of speaking up and saying that they don’t like the taste of a food. This has got to stop.
ISO: Who are your support team members?
CRC: My support team is my wife Jessie. She is my producer, manager, spell checker, and my handler. She is my rock and she is genuinely the reason that I have been able to have any success in life.
ISO: If you could live in (or visit) any fantasy world, where would you go?
CRC: This is such a hard question! So many fantasy worlds are appealing to me, but they are also unbelievably dangerous! No one writes a fantasy world with the idea of safety and security in mind. It would have been an unbelievably boring story if Frodo and Sam walked uneventfully to Mount Doom, chucked the ring in, shrugged their shoulders, and left. Part of me says a world when magic is real, and the other part of me says a world/universe where space travel is possible. I love to explore, and the idea of exploring undiscovered worlds is extremely appealing to me. I’d say the Trek universe, but then I’d have to sign up for the military and that would be rough for me. I can’t do that many sit-ups!!! hahahaha
ISO: Where do you get your inspiration for your projects?
CRC: The inspiration for my creative projects usually comes from telling jokes about a situation. For example, Pizza Bros came from real experiences working for delivery restaurants. I would say that my stories are 50% real and 50% embellishment. I also am extremely particular about my environment and living situation. I like to keep the creative juices flowing.
To that end, I have my house painted colors that are relaxing, and I rearrange my furniture on a regular basis to allow me to see situations with a fresh perspective. I also keep a fairly strict lifestyle routine to keep me productive. I am in bed by 8pm, I go to sleep at 10pm, and I wake up and 5:45am. This structured routine allows me to keep the structure that ADHD brains need, but with enough room for play and exploration to seek stimulation. I learned that staying up late at night leads to an unproductive life. There’s not much to do at 2 in the morning but watch TV, drink alcohol, and play video games.
ISO: What are your “fandoms”?
CRC: I really am the worst nerd in this regard. Because of my ADHD, I don’t like anything for long enough to participate in it for any amount of time. My tastes change with the weather. There are a few things that I’ve enjoyed on and off for a long time like Bleach, Dragon Ball, Akira, Harry Potter, Cowboy Bebop, and a few others. But I am a content consumer. I can read several hundred pages of books a day, watch entire seasons of a series, watch an entire movie trilogy, etc etc. I really value new ideas lately. By new, I don’t mean a rehash of an old idea done in a “dark” way, I mean genuinely new ideas. For example I loved the nonsensical world of “Blame!” The abstract idea of a never ending mega-structure that the protagonist had to explore captivated me as I read it.
ISO: What is something you wish beginning Indies knew?
CRC: That it is more important to create, than to create well. What I mean by this is that it is so much more important to be focused on just creating the content than to obsess with creating the best possible content that you can create. I am my own worst critic. I really am. I will create a recipe and dissect its components when I make it until I am perfectly happy with it. But the truth of the matter is that the average person will eat anything I make and absolutely love it, because they themselves cannot cook and are just so happy that anyone cooked for them.
The same is true for creative projects. Whether it is art, music, or writing. Normal, non-creatives are just so freaking excited to see you create something that they really will love anything that you do. So many people get bogged down in the details of quality and self doubt that they forget why they wanted to create the art from the beginning, which is that it was inside of their head, and they needed to get it out.
ISO: What is something you wish non-weirdies knew?
CRC: This one is easy. I’m weird to you, but you are equally as weird to me.
ISO: What projects are you working on?
CRC: I’m working on a few things right now. Cooking for Chemo is slowly turning into a national touring program which is super cool. Creatively, Jessie and I are still writing episodes of Pizza Bros. I have about five or six other comics I want to write but with no illustrative talents it is proving very difficult to create comic books using only my rudimentary stick figure drawings. Although, I may just start releasing my stick figure drawings in the hope that I’ll find an ambitious artist to partner with.
ISO: What projects do you want to do if money and time were no object?
CRC: If money were no object I have a project I call Pillar of Salt that is a graphic novel I’d like to write. Its an exploration of good and evil in our world using non-super heroes who stand up to subjectively bad people. I have the general story laid out on note cards, but as it is a very niche story and project it may never get made.
ISO: Where can people find your stuff?
CRC: People can find my stuff online mostly. You can grab my books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books and Million, off any of my websites, and you can follow me on social media. Full disclosure, I do not Twitter.
I hope you enjoyed this interview. Don’t forget I’m not affiliated with any links or projects in this interview. But I’m a big fan so go follow him!