Lake Forest chef, frontline worker spark friendship that started with a leftover meal

Chicago News

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — A Lake Forest chef sparked a friendship with a frontline worker when she offered her meals as she recovered from cancer, and tried to eat solid foods.

There’s something very special quietly happening at Sunset Foods in Lake Forest.

Victoria Brown is a long-time employee and cancer survivor. She was on a feeding tube after a tumor was removed and she got an infection — meaning she couldn’t eat solids.

Colleen Karsted is a long-time customer and chef at the culinary school at National Louis University. When COVID-19 hit, all her international cooking demos had to move online. 

“When I started doing the demos online, I was buying all sorts of new stuff. Tahini saffron lamb chops. It’s like all this stuff,” Karsted said.

Brown started wondering what was up. And then one day, Karsted asked her if she would like to take her leftovers. Brown was still attempting to stomach solid food. 

“She really perked up,” Karsted said. “I could tell she would want to eat that food.”

That’s when the chit chat at the checkout line turned into much more. 

“I see her every single day. I see her get sick and now thankfully seeing her recover and if there’s anything I can do to help, you help,” Karsted said.

Now every Friday, Karsted packs up the leftovers and brings it to the grocery store. This means at least a few days a week, Brown doesn’t have to think about what to eat after work. 

“I was too tired to go home and cook because of the complications she was very giving to me to try to get me on my feet,” Brown said. “So that’s an amazing gift.”

And that’s how a seemingly meaningless conversation at the grocery store became a friendship forged by food

It’s not a secret anymore. Now, Brown is on the mend and, thanks to Karsted, is gradually gaining the weight she lost during her illness.

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