People: Kickin It in the Kitchen

David “Doc” Robertson prepares a dish during his online cooking show, Kickin It in The Kitchen. Courtesy of Viejo Entertainment
Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News February 2016

One California native is cooking up a storm with his culinary YouTube tutorials

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David “Doc” Robertson admits he isn’t a chef during the first of his instructional YouTube videos helping those with spinal-cord injury (SCI) cook for themselves. 

Yet the quadriplegic with little use of his arms and hands tells online viewers, “If I can cook, anyone can.” The Southern California native, now 60, was paralyzed during high school football practice, injuring his C-5/6 vertebrae more than four decades ago. 

Lights, Camera, Action

Robertson’s YouTube culinary shows aren’t polished Hollywood productions, prodding along at an uneven pace and filmed with his back to the camera most of the time.

Sure, Kickin It in The Kitchen, set in Robertson’s modest Palm Springs, Calif., home, lacks pizzazz, but the program demonstrates real obstacles those with SCI face in a typical kitchen.

“Just through preparation, making sure everything is where you can reach it,” is his solution to overcoming those obstacles.

“In my kitchen, things have to be perfect, placed exactly where I can reach it without any problems,” Robertson says. “Let’s say there is a broomstick in the hallway. Normal people can step over it, but to me it’s a big hassle.”

While Robertson actively seeks celebrity backing to remove the show’s rough edges (mainly by dropping big names on his programs), he seems willing to follow the advice he gives his viewers and takes his time. He was editing the seventh of the planned 12-episode Kickin It series, which he hopes to finish by the start of this year, when PN interviewed him last November. 

“The most important thing (about preparing your own meals) is patience,” he says. “There are going to be days when I drop stuff on the floor. I get angry and impatient. Then I just have to stop and be patient. (You have to realize there is) nothing you can do to change. After 43 years (of living with paralysis), I still have those moments of impatience. I never really adjusted. I’m just adapting.”

Adapting in the kitchen is made additionally difficult for Robertson, who uses no specially designed utensils to help him accomplish his cooking feats. 

“I have to use my teeth to pull the meat off the leftover baked chicken I use for my sautéed chicken dish,” he says.

Culinary Rehab

Robertson sees his instructional culinary program as a much-needed bridge to span what he believes is a significant gap in the rehabilitation offered to those with SCI today.

When the now-YouTube entrepreneur was injured during the first week of his senior year as a defensive back at Crenshaw High School in 1972, Robertson spent the next 11 months in the hospital, mostly at the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, Calif., where he says the facility offered a cooking class for SCI patients. He says that class has since been dropped from the center’s curriculum because of budgetary constraints.

Moving Forward

Besides adapting to things in the kitchen, Robertson has learned to adjust outside of it as well. 

For instance, he and Tetra, his wife of 25 years, now find themselves in a long-distance relationship. 

Robertson lives with their youngest of three adult children, college-age Francisco, in the family’s Southern California home. This is so he can try to schmooze celebrities and producers who might take Kickin It and his other projects to the next level — to a cable TV food network. As for Tetra, she continues her career in academia at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.

“She did not like it at first,” Robertson says of Tetra’s initial response to their living apart. “But we talk every night, and we see each other as often as we can, once every two or three months.”

Perhaps Robertson’s most noted accomplishment came in the late 1990s with his success as a boys’ basketball coach at Mid-City Magnet School, a small K-12 learning institution in Los Angeles that at the time had 102 students and no gymnasium. 

Robertson partially attributes his prowess as a coach to the help he received from boyhood friend Marques Johnson, a five-time NBA All-Star who spent most of his professional career, which lasted from 1977 to 1989, with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Johnson is the only celebrity guest so far to appear on Kickin It. On the show, Robertson prepared his “Scrambled Eggs and Shrimp Surprise” for the ex-Bucks forward and early-1970s UCLA standout.

Robertson, who has added novelist to his multifaceted career accomplishments, also confidently plans to turn one of his several books, which are mostly romances, into a movie.

“I’m in the process of finalizing the script and looking for people to make it become a reality,” he says. “I want them to have to build a ramp (at the Academy Awards) to get me on stage when I win an Oscar. I don’t like to be carried.”

Watch Kickin It in the Kitchen here


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People: Kickin It in the Kitchen


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