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Cancer prompts Kansas cafe owner to return to Chicago home

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Chicago chef who found success in Kansas is returning to Chicago after being told he only has months to live.

Pedro Concepcion, 26, a chef who trained in Chicago, has been diagnosed with stomach cancer and wants to move back to Chicago to be close to family. He is the owner of Boca Cafe and co-owner of NOTO Burrito in Tokeka, Kan.

He and his friends are seeking a buyer who will preserve Boca Cafe, a gourmet sandwich restaurant that served Mediterranean cuisine with a Hispanic flair. It has been open for less than a year in the city’s College Hill area and employed nine people. It closed recently while Concepcion searches for a buyer. NOTO Burrito will remain open, Concepcion said.

“I want people to know it wasn’t because we were going down or something,” Concepcion said. “We loved the location, we loved being here. It’s just my health.”

Concepcion went to culinary school at the Art Institute of Chicago and worked in several fine-dining establishments before moving to Kansas a few years ago to help start the Burger Stand in Lawrence.

When a Burger Stand opened in Topeka, Concepcion was kitchen manager before starting his own businesses.

“He’s been so motivated, and he’s been building up his future,” said Simon Bates, owner of the Burger Stand at College Hill and one of Concepcion’s best friends. “And now it’s kind of up in the air. He’s just an all-around inspiration to everyone.”

Forrest Wright, retail cafe manager at PT’s at College Hill, said Boca’s closing is “a loss for the area.”

“He’s so strong,” Bates said of Concepcion. “I know doctors give bad news and stuff, but he’s the strongest person I know. He’ll be putting up a fight.”



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