Childhood Cancer

Cancer will Pho-ever be Part of Connor’s Journey

by St. Baldrick's Foundation
November 14, 2023

During his battle with cancer, Connor Johnson discovered a passion for cooking that has since propelled him to become a leading chef in Raleigh, N.C. Today, he views food as his most effective means of connecting with others.

cancer survivor Connor Johnson showing his cancer survivor arm tattoo

Cancer Survivor and Chef, Connor Johnson

Here is his recipe for Beef Pho.



  • 6 pounds of beef neck bones
  • 2 pounds boneless beef shank
  • 1 pound beef tendon
  • 10 quarts cold water

ingredients to add on hour 8

  • 3 yellow onions (grilled/charred)
  • 4 ounces of ginger (grilled/charred)

ingredients to add on hour 9

  • 1 cinnamon stick (toasted)
  • 1 whole star anise (toasted)
  • 1 whole fennel seed (toasted)
  • 1 whole coriander seed (toasted)
  • 1 whole clove (toasted)

ingredients to add on hour 10

  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 0.5 cup palm sugar
  • Salt to taste


  • Rice noodles (cooked)


  • Cilantro and Thai basil (pickled/washed)
  • Jalapeño and white onion (sliced thin)
  • Bean sprouts (washed)
  • Limes (quartered)

Equipment: Large pot, strainer, scale, oven sent to 400F


  • First, roast the beef neck bones at 400F for 40 minutes until dark and caramelized. If using a non-convection oven, it will take about an hour and 15 minutes.
  • Add the roasted beef bones, tendons, and beef shank to the large pot and cover with 10 quarts of cold water. Gently bring to a low simmer and begin to skim away the foam and solids. Maintain the low simmer for a total of 10 hours.
  • On hour 4, remove the beef shank and put in the fridge to cool.
  • On hour 8, add the charred onion and ginger.
  • On hour 9, add the spices.
  • On hour 10, remove from the heat and strain the broth into another similarly sized pot while saving the tendon meat in the fridge to cool. While still hot, season with the fish sauce, palm sugar, and salt to taste. Allow to cool fully overnight in the refrigerator.
  • The next day, there will be a thin white layer of fat on top of the broth that will easily remove since it’s solid. Bring the broth back to a simmer when ready to eat.
  • Separately boil some water to cook the rice noodles.
  • When assembling the bowl, make sure there is twice as much broth by volume relative to the noodles, then add the sliced beef shank, sliced tendon, and thin sliced raw onion and stir.
  • Top with the bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, jalapeños, and lime wedges to taste.

This is Connor’s story:

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