A Legacy of Food And Love: Meet Kaitlin Papandrea

Kaitlin Papandrea grew up watching a live cooking program in her very own kitchen. It wasn’t a show that aired on television, mind you – but an exciting and entertaining one all the same, and it instilled a love of eating, fresh ingredients and vivid flavours. Now, as an adult and parent to two children, Kaitlin carries on that enthusiasm in her own household.

“When you grow up having a passion for food in the house, that’s what you’re going to gravitate towards,” she says. “That opened the door to me at a young age and led to me being where I am today.”

Kaitlin’s father, Jim Sicile, adored food and was an excellent at-home chef. Inspired by his travels around the world for his full-time job as a cameraperson for ABC News, work stories didn’t centre on the major world event he’d just covered, but on the memorable meal he ate in a tiny restaurant or the food he prepared using pantry staples without power for hurricane survivors.

Jim brought his food experiences and palate to family meals – and there were always fun conversations to go along with them.

“When we would be in the kitchen, it was always a show,” Kaitlin remembers. “He would be standing at the kitchen island, he would be chopping, and there would be no way you’d be walking by that island without him saying ‘Come here and watch what I’m doing’. Every day there would be something to learn. He had a persuasive way of getting you excited about food.”

Jim Sicile

Jim Sicile, Kaitlin’s father

A family of foodies

The learning continued at the dinner table, where Jim encouraged Kaitlin, her mom and her three siblings to discuss the meal, along with the flavours and ingredients they could discern. Family mealtimes were sacred and non-negotiable – everyone had to be home for dinner, no matter what.

“Meals brought us all together. They were very important,” Kaitlin says. “I’m so thankful for that, and that is something I do with my own children.”

“Meals brought us all together. They were very important,” Kaitlin says. “I’m so thankful for that, and that is something I do with my own children.”

Kaitlin’s mother Kathie was no slouch in the food department, either. She emphasized the importance of nutritionally balanced meals, and her fun, tasty school lunches were so famous amongst Kaitlin and her friends that they became known simply as ‘The Sicile Lunch’.

“If a friend was sleeping over on a school night, this is what they looked forward to,” Kaitlin explains. “As an adult, our friends all still make reference to the Sicile Lunches which reflects in my own packing skills for my kids.”

Kaitlin didn’t cook frequently growing up, but she dabbled in the kitchen with her siblings and picked up a few cooking basics from her father along the way.

It wasn’t long before Kaitlin would use her culinary skills to fight for her life, her daughter’s life, and the life of her father.

The nutritional spark begins

Kaitlin Papandrea

Kaitlin always dreamed of a career in fashion; after graduating from college with a degree in fashion merchandising she opened her own boutique at the age of 23. Her shop was incredibly successful for nearly a decade until she could no longer work due to a difficult second pregnancy.

Kaitlin was blessed with good health for most of her life – except during the 18 months she was pregnant. Her two pregnancies were fraught by extreme illness that doctors couldn’t do much to resolve. When she was in the 8th month of her second pregnancy, just weeks away from her due date, doctors wanted to remove her gallbladder – but Kaitlin decided to wait.

Instead, after her second daughter arrived, Kaitlin dove into nutrition and was able to repair her gallbladder on her own with no need for surgery. Months later, Kaitlin picked up her newfound nutrition skills again when her baby daughter Charlotte couldn’t tolerate any food beyond breastmilk.

Charlotte was plagued by severe and constant chronic pain, as well as gastrointestinal bleeding for nearly four years. The cause? Unknown. The family visited 12 different doctors, and many suggested that a feeding tube was the best option. Kaitlin – dubious that a feeding tube would get to the root of the issue – focused on a nutritional approach, patiently testing different foods and keeping careful notes until her daughter healed.

Today, Charlotte is completely healthy and energetic, with no bleeding or pain, and no need for medication or a feeding tube. And, true to her family legacy, enjoys eating a wide variety of foods.

Filling in the nutritional gaps, and creating a professional blueprint

Pumpkin Chocolate Bites

Inspired by Charlotte’s success, intrigued friends and families began asking Kaitlin for nutrition guidance, and she wanted credentials to reinforce her advice. She completed a health coaching program, but the nutrition and cooking component wasn’t there – and she knew the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program would fill those knowledge gaps.

“The missing puzzle piece was the nutrition,” Kaitlin explains. “When I saw there was a school that was cooking and nutrition, I thought ‘This is me, this is exactly where I want to be’. The culinary nutrition combination was right up my alley.”

Kaitlin thrived in the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program and thoroughly enjoyed all aspects, especially learning culinary techniques and nutrition information from the program modules. Students choose a condition to work with throughout the program, and Kaitlin found this aspect incredibly valuable – and continues to use the client information package she wrote as a framework for working with clients.

“It teaches you how to take a condition, research it and apply it,” she says. “That really structured and shaped what I’m able to do now with my clients.”

“The missing puzzle piece was the nutrition. When I saw there was a school that was cooking and nutrition, I thought ‘This is me, this is exactly where I want to be’. The culinary nutrition combination was right up my alley.”

Nutrition and food in a family crisis

Soon after completing the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program coursework in December 2020, Kaitlin again applied her research and cooking skills when her father was hospitalized in January 2021 with severe breathing issues. The family first assumed it was a coronavirus-related issue (Jim had recently contracted it) but were shocked when he was eventually diagnosed with a terminal, rare and untreatable lung cancer.

Jim had always been healthy and active, and visited doctors for regular checkups, but somehow the cancer was missed in its early stages. His chances of survival were 0%.

Kaitlin and Jim decided they had nothing to lose by prioritizing nutritional strategies in tandem with the limited and palliative medical interventions available.

For months, while Jim remained in hospital, every single bite he ate was from the anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer meals and snacks Kaitlin prepared for him. She packed coolers and brought them to the hospital, foods carefully labeled with what he should eat and when, which he kept by his side in his tiny hospital room.

“Being a culinary nutritionist, I was able to give him all the foods that were comforting, and they were healthy and beneficial for him. He lacked nothing,” Kaitlin says.

Hospital food

An array of meals and snacks Kaitlin prepared for her father to eat in the hospital

Success with culinary nutrition 

Meaningful wins emerged: Jim’s bloodwork improved, the cancer unexpectedly shrunk slightly and he breathed easier, so the doctors took him off high-dose steroids. More importantly, he experienced a tremendous quality of life and was able to spend time with those he loved most before he died. To his doctors, these results defied explanation. To Kaitlin and her family, the reason was obvious.

Upon diagnosis at the end of March 2021, doctors predicted he wouldn’t live more than two weeks and he thrived for ten.

“He was moving, shaking, dancing, walking,” she says. “He had colour in his skin, crystal clear eyes and felt zero pain. My father told me if he didn’t know he had cancer, he wouldn’t have believed he had cancer.”

As a new graduate of the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program, Kaitlin was able to immediately apply what she learned to help her father.

“Although we didn’t have the time to save him, I’d say we were successful,” she says. “I don’t know that I would have been as successful with my dad if I didn’t have all the information under my belt that I learned in the program.”

“Although we didn’t have the time to save him, I’d say we were successful. I don’t know that I would have been as successful with my dad if I didn’t have all the information under my belt that I learned in the program.”

Getting support from fellow Culinary Nutrition Experts

During this critical and stressful time, Kaitlin had a compassionate network of family and friends, but also relied on the unique support from the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program community. While others gave her a hard time for removing beloved foods from her foodie father, fellow Culinary Nutrition Experts took another stance.

“There was a totally different type of support when I was in the program’s Facebook group. Everybody was on the same page,” she says. “It’s very hard to get that kind of support when people don’t understand what you’re doing. It looked like I was taking the ‘best’ foods away from my dad. The group was so uplifting, and kept me motivated and kept me thinking I was doing the right thing.”

The day before Jim died in hospice, Kaitlin asked her father if he resented her for restricting his food choices.

“He said, ‘You tried to save me. How could I resent you for that? I love you more for it. I truly believe I’m still here because of everything we’ve been doing’.”

Another health challenge arises

In March 2022, a year after her father’s terminal diagnosis, Kaitlin’s mother Kathie was diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctor wanted to put Kathie on medication to lower her estrogen levels before surgery. With a better prognosis, and more time to explore options, Kaitlin knew she could help using culinary nutrition.

“My mom was hands down my biggest cheerleader while I was trying to work up plans for my daughter and dad,” she says. “She believes in what I do so much that she trusted me enough with her own health.”

After three and a half weeks of dietary changes, her mother’s estrogen levels dropped naturally with no need for medication.

“What your body can do and what it’s capable of is amazing,” Kaitlin says.

Kathie’s doctor was so impressed she asked to meet Kaitlin, so she could begin recommending Kaitlin to her patients.

Kaitlin also hired Culinary Nutrition Expert Jenny Bradley, a breast cancer thriver and cancer coach, to support her mom on the journey ahead.

Moving forward with culinary nutrition, and helping others improve their lives

Kaitlin Papandrea

Kaitlin cooking with her daughter, Charlotte

Kaitlin now works with clients one to one, helping them improve their health conditions and get a handle on their food triggers through food education, meal planning and meal prep. She coaches clients to meet their goals and creates game plans that will be practical and sustainable long-term.

She also has a membership group where she shares recipes, guided menu plans, and how-to videos for those who want general nutrition advice in a group setting.

Food remains a family affair too, with Kaitlin and her siblings sharing recipes with one another their father would have loved to try. Countless extended family and friends still post food memories on Jim’s Facebook page, and how he helped them discover a new ingredient, cooking hack, or recipe.

Kaitlin uses her culinary nutrition skills daily to develop new recipes for her clients and membership group – and to inspire her children. At six and nine, her daughters are eager young chefs who make themselves breakfast every morning and arrive home from school with empty lunchboxes.

While Kaitlin isn’t ready for her own kitchen cooking show just yet, she teaches her children how to cook, learn more about what they eat (and why), and how to become adventurous eaters – just like their grandfather.

“What continues to keep my dad’s spirit alive is food,” she says.



Students join the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program for a variety of reasons, and they often complete their education with so much inspiration, knowledge and empowerment that they take their new skills further. If you’d like to learn how to use culinary nutrition to enhance your personal life or branch off into a brand new career, registration is currently open for the 2022 term beginning in September. 


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