I pulled off the best surprise for my boyfriend Dan, aka Quadchef

By Elena Pauly, WAGS of SCI Co-Founder


WAGSofSCI-083 elena and dan website

Health and nutrition after spinal cord injury are so, so, so important. Sadly, the hospital systems resort heavily on sugary, supplementary “nutritional”, drinks such as Boost to help an individuals gain back weight after a serious injury such as an SCI. Most individuals leave rehabilitation, ill equipped to care for themselves, without proper nurse,  not enough care hours to truly regain any normalcy of life. Nutrition is often placed on the back burner for SCI patients, leaving them to fend for fast food options more regularly than they should. This equation leads to poor health, easy break down of skin tissue and weak bone density from sitting in ONE spot for the remainder of your life- a wheelchair. Improper care shortens your life span. 

My boyfriend Dan, QuadChef on Instagram, has pushed himself post rehab to return to his passion of cooking not only for himself but also for me. He plans meals sometimes weeks in advance, seeks out specific ingredients to execute dishes and gets truly excited about the food he creates.

With the pandemic here in full throttle, this year’s years celebrations have become move innovative and honestly, more creative and fun! So, I thought what better way to try to pull off a surprise then by writing Dan’s all time favourite Chef, Jaime Oliver, himself. 


On November 1, 2020 I wrote Jamie:

“Hello Jamie or whoever receives my message,

Firstly, I must express that my boyfriend, Dan, aka “QuadChef”, is quite obsessed with your recipes. My tall, dark and handsome, Italian man has always had a remarkable passion for flavour and of course- your cookbooks. I actually think I may recall gifting him one many years ago and the light in his eyes solidified that I, indeed would land another date with him. 

My beautiful man sustained a spinal cord injury in 2016, on his first out of country trip, which I surprised him with. He is a C6 quadriplegic and his passion for planning and executing the perfect meal is the highlight of his day. Of course I get to enjoy it all because most days the smoke detector goes off when I cook.

Long story short, our lives were flipped upside down in 2016. We lost everything to the financial costs of the world’s most expensive injury. Once Dan was strong enough to swallow puréed foods, then eat solids, he came back to following his passion of cuisine and cooking. I majorly applaud him for that. 

I guess the reason for me writing you is to tell you how much of and impact you have made on him. Spinal cord injury is tough. It doesn’t discriminate and it can truly flip your life upside down and make you second guess everything. I would like to ask if you would be able to entertain the idea of doing a 1/1 cooking esson for Dan. 

If you could please email me with the cost or just tell me that this request is absurd I would still greatly appreciate it. Again, please just know that you have made a tremendous impact in my boyfriends life and for that I am thankful. :)”

Elena Pauly

On November 3, I got a reply from the PR manager saying that Jamie Oliver was very busy but that Jack Deane, the Head Chef of Jamie Oliver’s Cookery School would love to do a lesson with Dan. “Oh my god!”, I thought. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not only did I get a response within a week but an offer! Holy smokes! Of course, I quickly responded and jumped up for joy.

Now, the second, most challenging task was on my hands. How was I going to keep my mouth shut for an entire week and not let the cat out of the bag? This was the ultimate test from the universe. Through the week Dan kept mentioning that Jamie Oliver’s chefs were actively liking his posts and a few even began to follow him. When I heard this, I would run out the room or turn my head quickly without allowing the ooze of excitement and my lack of self control create a monster out of me. “I can keep a surprise!” I thought. 

In the event that our cooking lesson was quickly approaching and it was two days prior to the big day, I asked Dan, “so what are you doing two days from now?” He responded casual and alas, I broke the news that Jack Deane would like to cook with him and I had planned this surprise! The catch is the time difference. London time of 3:00-5:00pm equates to Vancouver time of 7:00-9:00am. Meaning, we would need to get up at 6:00am and no such Home Care Support would come for this time. So, I planned to be Dan’s car aid for that day and we got up and got ready early. In all of the anticipation it turned out that I forgot one of the main ingredients in our pasta dish- the crushed tomatoes! So, at 7:00am I rushed off to find an open grocery store. As I walked back in the door to catch the lesson, Dan said “oh here she is!”, “Elena come say hi to Jaime Oliver.”, I dropped my canned tomatoes and rushed over to the computer. I could NOT believe my eyes. We casually chatted about the incredible work he is doing and he complemented us on the same. He knew of Quad Chef and WAGS of SCI! Being able to share the WAGS of SCI mission with him was truly the highlight of the year. We created an amazing Italian meal and were blessed to spend 2.5 hours in the virtual company of two of the coolest individuals on this planet. Ahhh, I am forever grateful!

The moral of the story is that anything IS possible. I know Dan rolls his eyes at me, A LOT. I skip around the house singing “the world is your oyster (shooter)"... because it’s true. YOU deserve the world and the world happen for you, not to you! If you need to hear this today and everyday here it is- you deserve the very best. Maybe SCI has closed some doors for us and you but many more have opened. Just keep your hearts open and love yourself while you love each other!

Elena Pauly

Co-Founder of WAGS of SCI