Nina Curtis, Founder and President of The Nile Institute in West Hollywood, CA, has over 25 years experience in the professional personal care and wellness industry. She is a well-respected Holistic Esthetician, certified Natural Health Professional, certified Health and Wellness Coach, certified Health and Fitness Professional and now a certified Living Light Institute Associate Chef and Instructor.
Get to know Nina Curtis in Living Light’s Chef Spotlight.
Chef Experience: How did you get interested in raw foods?
Nina Curtis: My journey with raw food started 12 years ago. I was ready for something new in my life. I jumped in feet first, read every book available, took every class I could find, with the best of the best, throughout Los Angeles, attended potlucks, lectures and traveled miles to eat at raw food restaurants.
CE: Are you currently eating a raw food diet? If so, how long have you been eating raw foods?
NC: I am currently eating an 80/20 raw, vegan food diet, (80% raw, plant-based foods). Three years into my all raw food diet, my acupuncturist told me that my ‘earth’ element needed some warmth. Always, one to let the pendulum swing, I said, “What the heck?” I listened to him and began eating cooked grains and other cooked carbs… I now concentrate on being a ‘Conscious’ plant-based eater, as I don’t like ‘labels’ and I like to listen to what my body needs.
CE: How has raw foods changed your life?
NC: It’s made me realized the power behind the quote, “Let food be thy medicine”. I love trying as many new plant-based foods as I can get my hands on as variety is key with this food style!
CE: When did you know that you wanted to be a raw vegan chef?
NC: Once I realized that so many of my family, friends and clients where more interested in this way of eating and they trusted my experiences. I wanted to really be able to prepare gourmet meals that would appeal to all of their senses.
CE: How did you find out about Living Light Culinary Institute?
NC: Many of the people I took classes from early on in my journey had studied with Cherie Soria and that was before Living Light moved to Fort Bragg. I knew when the time was right I would attend Living Light as it is the premiere raw food culinary school of choice!
CE: When deciding on a school, what were the major factors that played a part in your decision? What were you looking for?
NC: The quality of training is key; I likened it to my decision to attend Pepperdine University for my MBA. I wanted to attend a school that was not only on the cutting edge, but could offer me ‘real’ time experience. I wanted personal attention to my specific needs and goals, and the success of previous graduates was also important to me. When I looked at what many of the graduates of the Living Light Culinary Institute were accomplishing, and so many are accomplishing great and exciting things, I knew this was where I wanted to attend school.
Another factor important to me was the emphasis put on chef and instructor skill sets. I am a business owner, teacher, writer and lecturer in the spa and wellness industry and my certification as a Raw Culinary Arts Associate Chef and Instructor, allows me to expand my business offerings in many innovative ways! I am working on a rebranding of my business and there are some very exciting things to come!
CE: What was your first week at the Living Light Culinary Institute like?
NC: It was fast paced, lots of learning and teaming up with people from all over the continent. There was no messing around! We jumped right in and started making all kinds of dishes. I loved it!
CE: What is your favorite dish that you have created so far?
NC: I really enjoyed so many dishes, but if I have to narrow it down to one, I would say it’s been the Mediterranean Dolmas as it’s a favorite food of mine.
CE: What was so special about this particular dish?
NC: I had pretty much given ‘traditional’ dolmas up as I did not want the rice it contained. When I saw that we were going to make it in class with zucchini as a rice replacement, I was a bit skeptical? I thought, let’s just leave well enough alone but I was pleasantly surprised that the mouthfeel of the zucchini was much like the rice. I’m enjoying making it at home, along with the savory zucchini hummus!
CE: Which Living Light courses are you most looking forward to taking? Why?
NC: Armed with the Living Light Culinary training that I currently have, I am really looking forward to attending the Gourmet series, especially the ‘Rawfusion Spa Cuisine’. This is right up my alley as I am in the spa industry and I will be able to offer this specialty to many spas across the globe. It fits so well with my current consulting and training services and I think more consumers and spas want to learn about this style of cuisine.
CE: What was your typical day at school like?
NC: I was up at about 5:30 a.m. each morning and I volunteered to work in the kitchen at 7:30 am before class started every chance I got (you learn so much by observing the management operations of the kitchen). Green smoothies were served at 8:45am and Instructor training commenced at 9 a.m. By 10 a.m. we started our demos and hands on, which continued all the way through to gastronomy and lunch. More demos and hands on after lunch with the day ending with gastronomy and facility management. Don’t think I’m done yet, as we had plenty of home work; reading, research and recipe development to complete. I think that the lights went out in my room on average by midnight. This program is not a vacation. What you put into it, you get out of it!
CE: What do you like most about attending Living Light?
NC: The team at Living Light, including the teachers, administrators and advisors are truly passionate about what they do and they are sincerely interested in each ‘student’s success. I was very impressed that Cherie Soria, the founder of Living Light, was very involved with our training when she was in town. She is truly the Mother of Raw Gourmet Cuisine, she taught classes, was very hands on in our development and she is a stickler for detail and perfection! I truly appreciated that. I feel that I have received a strong foundation to continue to build on.
CE: What is the most challenging?
NC: Having to leave until next time…
CE: Where do you see yourself after graduation from Living Light Culinary Institute?
NC: I am currently working on my business plan to include; offering lectures, workshops, writing and private and business consultation. I am ‘breaking where I am the strongest’, as they say, in the spa industry and then I plan to expand from there.
CE: What advice do you have for anyone thinking about a career in the raw foods?
NC: I think it’s important to identify your passion and be clear on what you want, not what others want of you. I love teaching, so my emphasis will be on teaching about the raw food lifestyle, through many different mediums.
CE: Do you have any exciting projects in the works?
NC: Yes, I am very excited as I will be speaking to a group of about 150 spa owners, directors, and estheticians on the benefits of a raw food, plant-based diet. I want people to really start thinking about beauty and wellness from the inside out and what that truly means? “You Are What You Eat” and “Eat Right for Your Skin Type” concepts. When I started my raw food journey 12 years ago, people looked at me with a ‘raised brow’, now some of those same people are interested with what I have to say, that’s exciting!
CE: Where do you see yourself five years from now and what path will you take to get there?
NC: I love to plan but I’ve also learned to stay open to the Universe. I have a lot of ideas which I look forward to bring to fruition such as authoring a couple of books, raw food travel and possibly a line of ‘skin food’.
I constantly remind myself that, “I’m not in a hurry for anything, but on time for everything!” ~Nina Curtis
The Nile Institute 620 1/2 North Doheny Drive West Hollywood, CA 90069 310-275-NILE (6453) http://www.styleseat.com/ninacurtis
If you would like further information on attending Living Light classes, please call an Enrollment Specialist at 707-964-2420