Cindy Crawford's cancer was a driving force behind her starting Cindy's Catering and now is a big factor in her retirement.
Crawford will be stepping away at the end of the year from the Martinez catering business she has run for more than a decade.
"There are hundreds of people who don't even know I'm sick, never have known I'm sick," Crawford said.
Diagnosed 22 years ago, Crawford had pheochromocytoma, a cancer of the adrenal gland.
"I just can't maintain the level of energy that you need ... to run this kind of business," Crawford said. "If I wasn't sick, I wouldn't even think about retiring."
Since her diagnosis, she's endured more than 75 radiation treatments and two rounds of strong chemotherapy that require 9- or 10-day hospitalizations every three weeks. She's started her third round of chemotherapy, but recently suspended it until after the first of the year.
"I spent about four years studying the physiological effects of food on the body," Crawford said of her transition from paralegal to chef. "From that, I started cooking from scratch and making sure I didn't include items that were going to cause different physiological effects on me because of my cancer."
A couple of friends asked her to cook specific menus for their sick spouses. Catering a birthday party led to other events, and Cindy's Catering was born.
She moved the burgeoning business to Washington Road, across from Gerald Jones Honda, in 2002.
Crawford said she's selling the business, but without the name and few of her signature recipes. She posted her intention to sell on Facebook on Sept. 19 and was inundated with questions and offers.
After narrowing the buyers, Crawford said she chose one and is expected to close the sale by the end of the year.
"They want to come in and change nothing," Crawford said, adding she didn't want to release the names of the new owners until the deal is final. "They want to keep my staff, so I'm not going to have to put anybody out of work. That's one reason I kept it open two years longer than I really wanted to because I didn't have the heart (to fire anybody)."
Crawford's daughter, Kelley Strickland, runs the day-to-day operations of the business. She opted not to take over the business and instead to work for the new owners.
"It really has nothing to do with me not wanting to, because I do," said Strickland, who has worked with Crawford full time since 2002. "But I think it is a better opportunity for me to help somebody else who wants to take over. I can help them manage."
Crawford said at one time her business catered up to five events on a weekend day, fed up to 1,200 people in one day and staffed about 50 part-time workers for events. In addition, the catering business provided an average of 100 to 200 corporate lunches each weekday.
Crawford said she tried to slow down by turning down some business and even closing Cindy's Cafe, which was open next door to the catering office for about four years.
"I've made several attempts to arrange the business in a way that I would still be able to do it," she said. "It is still just more work that I can do."
The last event Cindy's Catering will cater is the Dec. 17 wedding of Crawford's son, Ricky.
After that, Crawford said she plans to get back to personal chef work.
"The thing about being a personal chef is that I can get back to what I went into this business to do, which is cook, which I don't do anymore," Crawford said. "That is going to give me the opportunity to get back hands-on with foods and preparing things the way I want to. I'm not exactly sure what the time line for that will be, but I'm excited to be able to do things like that."