HEALTH

Samantha Pecoraro, 15, who can't eat, studies to be a chef

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A Florida teen who has a disease that makes eating almost impossible is in D.C. studying to be a chef.

Samantha Pecoraro

Samantha Pecoraro is in Cedar Restaurant's kitchen, surrounded by mouthwatering dishes, even though she can't eat any of them.

Pecoraro, 15, has a rare auto-immune disease called eosinophilic esophagitis, or EOE.

"Very painful," she says. "A lot of food impaction, gagging on food, not being able to swallow, furrowing in my throat."

She has been in and out of hospitals, and gets most of her nourishment through a tube in her stomach.

But she loves cooking and she takes classes at her high school.

Scott McCloud read about Pecoraro and called his brother, the head chef at Cedar.

"I called Aaron," he says. "I say, there's this kid. She's 15, she can't eat and she wants to be a chef."

The Penn Quarter restaurant flew Pecoraro and her parents up here last night to spend a few days learning from the chef himself.

"I call myself the 'blind chef,' because when you're blind, your other senses are heightened," Pecoraro says. "You can hear better, things like that. Well, I can now smell better, since I don't have taste anymore."

"My dream is just to cook and to make people happy," Pecoraro says.

Sunday evening, Pecoraro and chef McCloud will be cooking up a five-course benefit dinner to raise money to fight EOE.

It's at Cedar Restaurant, 822 E Street NW, at 6:30 p.m., December 2. Reservations are required (202-637-0012) and a donation of $150 is requested, but every penny goes to help people like Percoraro, who can't eat.

Click here for more information on eosinophilic esophagitis, which affects 200,000 Americans.

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