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Restaurant community rallies around famed Twin Cities chef battling cancer

Jack Riebel, chef and owner of The Lexington, is starting a new aggressive treatment — his fourth in a year — in hopes of beating cancer.

Acclaimed Twin Cities chef Jack Riebel, co-owner and chef of The Lexington in St. Paul, is starting yet another new treatment in his battle against a rare form of cancer, and those who've enjoyed his hospitality for years and trying to return the favor. 

"The bell rings this morning for the next round of the fight," Riebel wrote on Facebook earlier this month, according to a Go Fund Me page. "Today was a moment of truth. My prognosis is not great, but I am not done yet. I will continue to make as many moments and memories as my health allows."

He's starting a new aggressive treatment approach to get rid of his cancer of the neuroendocrine system, marking the fourth treatment in the last year, hoping this one will work, the page notes. 

"I hope to get vaccinated, so that I can see as many of you again as possible. I will continue the bout with the beast starting next week with a new treatment, my fourth in in a year. Over the next weeks and months and hopefully longer. I will remain optimistic that something will work," Riebel said, according to the page. 

WCCO's Jason DeRusha launched the Go Fund Me page on Thursday to help Riebel and his wife Kathryne Cramer. And in less than a day it had exceeded its $20,000 goal. 

"You know Jack is the last person on earth who would ask for help. But the time is here for us to step up and extend the love and hospitality that he and Kat have shared with us all these years," DeRusha, a good friend of Riebel's, wrote on the page.

“Jack is passionate about the Twin Cites community and has contributed countless dinners to charities and donates his time any chance he gets,” Josh Thoma, co-owner of The Lexington said of Rie. “The pandemic has taken a toll on the restaurant industry, The Lexington included, with closures and limited hours. Sadly, this has really impacted Jack but we are doing all we can to support him and his family during his uphill cancer battle. Jack is family to us.”

The Minneapolis St. Paul Magainze described Riebel in 2019 as someone with a heart of gold and the chef who has opened the greatest number of restaurants in the Twin Cities in the 2010s, noting he's started Butcher & The Boar, Il Foro, Half-Time Rec, and cooked at Goodfellow's for a decade, as well as La Belle Vie, among others.

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Riebel was diagnosed with cancer of the neuroendocrine system in the summer of 2019. It's the same type of cancer Steve Jobs and Aretha Franklin had, and there's no cure and limited treatment options.

The Mayo Clinic says this type of cancer is rare and begins in the neuroendocrine cells (cells that are similar to nerve cells and hormone-producing cells), which can cause cancerous rumors to grow anywhere in the body.  The tumors can occur anywhere in the body, but most often occur in the lungs, appendix, small intestine, rectum and pancreas. 

The exact cause of these tumors isn't known, and some tumors can grow very slowly while others invade and destroy normal body tissue or spread to other parts of the body, Mayo says.

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