British Columbia·Our Vancouver

'This is her legacy': The powerful story behind Inspired Cooking

Adrian Brijbassi and his wife Julia started making a cookbook to raise money for Inspire Health, a non-profit helping people eat well during their cancer treatments. Julia died before the project was complete.

Unique cookbook shares contributions from some of Canada's top chefs

The country's top chefs discuss food for healing and offer favourite recipes 6:48

Inspired Cooking isn't just a cookbook — it's also a collection of heartfelt real life stories of people's lives and loves and what happens when cancer strikes.

For many people struggling with the disease, food can become a great concern — but also a great comfort. 

Food and travel journalist Adrian Brijbassi started the project with his wife and colleague Julia Pelish Brijbassi shortly after she was diagnosed with brain cancer.

​During her treatment, Julia, a longtime photographer, suggested creating a cookbook with two goals: focus on food as a healthy healing force in people's lives, and raise money for cancer care.

The team began recruiting some of the bests chefs in the country to share some of their favourite recipes.

"We asked the chefs if they would be willing to participate ... and very few turned it down. We've got some of the biggest names in the industry," he told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's Our Vancouver

Chefs featured in the project include Vikram Vij, Michael Smith, Ned Bell, Roy Oh and cancer survivor Dale MacKay.

Sadly, Julia Pelish Brijbassi died in March 2016, before the book was complete.

Adrian Brijbassi and Julia Pelish Brijbassi stand together during their many travels. (Adrian Brijbassi)

'This is her legacy'

Brijbassi hopes the recently released book will encourage people to eat better to prevent disease. All proceeds from the sale of it will go to Inspired Health — a non-profit provincial cancer care centre that provided support for the Brijbassis during Julia's battle.

"Dealing with the grief isn't easy," he said. "Trying to pull yourself away from the cancer and how that can consume you ... with Julia's illness, that wasn't easy."

"But at the same time, this is her legacy, and honouring that will be a big part of what my life will be from now on. And having the book come out and be so beautiful and everyone worked so hard — I know she would be proud of it."

Click here to watch Adrian Brijbassi cook a roasted halibut and beet salsa with host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's Our Vancouver. Full instructions are below.

Roasted halibut and beet salsa is a delicious dish that will serve up to four people. (James Walt Araxi Whistler B.C.)

Roasted Halibut and Beet Salsa

Beet Salsa Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic beets, cooked, diced to ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 small organic shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp organic ginger, grated
  • 1 organic orange, small, zested and juiced 
  • 2 tbsps maple or apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsps cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • Unrefined salt and cracked white pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp chives, chopped


To cook beets, either boil whole beets in water for 30 to 60 minutes (depending on size), or bake in a 375°F oven with a little water in the pan for 50 minutes, until cooked. Set aside until cool to touch, then peel skin (using gloves to prevent stained fingers), saving only the flesh. Dice into ¼-inch cubes.

In a bowl combine all of the ingredients except the chives. Toss and season lightly with the salt and pepper. Place in the refrigerator until needed.

Halibut Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 6-oz. wild halibut fillets, 1 ½-inch thick
  • Unrefined salt and cracked white pepper, to taste
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tbsps unsalted organic butter


Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

In an oven-proof sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the halibut with the salt and pepper. Place the halibut into the pan and add the sprigs of thyme. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the cooked side is golden, then transfer to the oven and leave to cook for an additional 5 minutes (note: the fillet has not been flipped yet). Remove the pan carefully from the oven and return to the stove top set on medium heat.

Flip the halibut and add the butter to the pan. Evenly baste the fish with the melted butter for 1 minute. Remove the fish from the pan and place on individual plates.

To serve:

Add the chives to the beet salsa. Place the halibut onto individual plates. Spoon the beet salsa over and around the fish. Serve with green salad, rice, or your favourite vegetable accompaniment.