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Raw Food Chef and Instructor Nina CurtisNina 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.

Living Light Mediterranean mealCE: 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.

Nina Curtis at Living Light Culinary InstituteCE: 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

Check out some of the fabulous raw vegan dishes from Living Light’s recent Gourmet Chef students.

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Living Light Gourmet graduateAfter working in the music entertainment industry for 14 years coordinating volunteer security and site crew operations, Natalie Cottrell switched careers and began working at the Noyo Food Forest Learning Garden as the volunteer coordinator. The availability of farm fresh produce helped Natalie decide to get back into her original passion—creating amazing food.  Natalie is working to bridge the gap between the local schools’ meal programs and the Community Support Agriculture.

Get to know Natalie Cottrell in Living Light’s Chef Spotlight.

Chef Experience: How did you get interested in raw foods?
Natalie Cottrell: I have always loved eating the fruits & veggies that my family either gathered or grew! Now I work at the local community garden, the “Noyo Food Forest Learning Garden” as the volunteer coordinator. The enthusiasm of everyone involved and the amazing availability of farm fresh veggies and fruits have helped me re-recognize my original passion- creating amazing food.

CE: How long has raw food been a part of your diet?
NC: I have always recognized the importance of eating raw, and I have always known that the rawest ingredients usually are indicative of the freshest and tastiest, and I am big on fresh!

CE: How has raw foods changed your life?
NC: Learning that there are a whole lot more options for vegetarian, vegan and raw meals has totally blown the roof off of my previous belief that salad is the usual raw meal. There are so many variations and original ideas that are exciting and healthy to boot! I can’t wait to teach my community how to recreate their favorite foods and genuinely improve their diets, and overall health!

CE: How did you find out about Living Light Culinary Institute?
NC: I live here in Fort Bragg, so when anything new comes our way, I look into it. I recall the locals wondering if this new “hippy dippy raw place” was going to make it. It only took one time for me to try the un-tuna sandwich and the sea palm salad- I was HOOKED!!! I turned all my friends onto the newest place in town!

CE: When deciding on a school, what were the major factors that played a part in your decision? What were you looking for?
NC: First and foremost is the location. Second, the price- a totally affordable and amazing education! But, truth be told, I am attending the Institute on a grant as part of the Mendocino Private Industry Counsel’s back to work retraining program. I was actually looking at the CIA in Napa Valley, but the cost was way too much for me in my current financial situation.

CE: What was your first week at the Living Light Culinary Institute like?
NC: Mind Blowing!!!!

Living Light Gourmet Student creation CE: What is your favorite dish that you have created so far?
NC: I really get excited about the recipes that are developed by us- the students, but I am loving the Mediterranean flavors that we are exploring…
Oh Goodness, and probably the lemon custard tarts…or the…

CE: What was so special about raw foods?
NC: Come on…food that tastes that awesome is not only raw but good for me too?

CE: Which Living Light courses are you most looking forward to taking? Why?
NC:  I am truly ready to take this (education) to the next level by attending the nutrition and the marketing courses. Perhaps some pastry arts…

CE: What is your typical day at school like?
NC: Challenging and exciting and yummy!!!

CE: What do you like most about attending Living Light?
NC:  A few things. The level of absolute professionalism is astounding. I am receiving an exciting education that will enable me to get into the fresh new world of eating raw! I am already being approached with job offers! The future looks very bright! The folks that run the place are great people, and not only to learn from and work around. I guess that the best thing I love about living Light is the way I feel from when I walk into the door, and later when I reflect on my day and what I learned- while I do my homework!

Living Light Gourmet Student creationCE: What is the most challenging?
NC:  Recipe development- but I did not come here to do stuff I knew how to do; I came here to learn and work! I want my skills to be razor sharp and on the cutting edge- some of these job offers are from people that are pretty progressive…that makes it even more of a fun challenge! Gotta keep up with the rest of the world!

CE: Where do you see yourself after graduation from Living Light Culinary Institute?
NC:  I haven’t decided on any one thing- my true calling is feeding people and sharing with them what there is here in Fort Bragg, as far as fresh food sources in our community. I have no doubts about being absolutely prepared though!

CE: What advice do you have for anyone thinking about a career in the raw food nutrition?
NC:  Living Light is a solid approach to the world of raw cuisine. Do it!

Living Light Culinary Gourmet GraduateCE: Where do you see yourself five years from now and what path will you take to get there?
NC: I will be an educator and chef, privately and with other chefs in assorted adventures. I will definitely be busy!

Natalie was born and raised in Fort Bragg, California.   She is a recent graduate of Living Light’s Gourmet Raw Food Chef Certification™.

Check out some of the delectable raw vegan dishes from Living Light’s recent Gourmet Chef students.

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Living Light Culinary Institute Kitchen Angel Leslie JonesLeslie Jones is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and currently lives in the woods in Central New York, near Ithaca.  Leslie recently completed Essentials of Raw Culinary Arts™, a five-day hands-on Living Light Culinary Institute course.  After her training, Leslie experienced what it is like to run a raw vegan kitchen when she became a Living Light Kitchen Angel during the Raw Culinary Arts Associate Chef and Instructor Training™ and Pastry Arts-Unbaked! ™ classes.

Chef Experience: How did you get interested in raw foods?
Leslie Jones: I became interested in live foods in late 2001 when I was introduced to the idea by a farmer friend. My partner supported the idea and helped me to research and purchase equipment and supplies by mid 2002. During this time, we were also transitioning from city life to living off the grid (relying predominantly on natural resources like solar power for electricity) in the woods. I was not able to take on two new lifestyle changes at once (while also changing jobs) so we put away our brand new equipment (the Green Life juicer, K-Tec blender, and our Excalibur 4-tray dehydrator still wrapped in its packaging) for another time.

In the Fall of 2010, my mother’s serious medical diagnosis heightened my sense of urgency to become as self sufficient with my health (and that of my family) as I am with my living conditions. I was also experiencing increasing difficulties with my digestion of cooked food and other health challenges. For the next year I studied with Queen Afua, a holistic health practitioner in Brooklyn, and she offered me a transitional road map towards live foods.

CE: How long have you been eating raw food diet?
LJ: I have been eating high raw (90% – 100%) since December 2010.

CE: How has raw foods changed your life?
LJ: Eating live foods has connected me to all life on the planet, and it has been a life-changing experience. Even though I am in my 10th year living in the woods in almost full reliance (about 75%) on the natural world, before I committed to a raw diet I was still disconnected. Live foods allowed me to expand my consciousness and to connect with the truth of who I am and the reason why I am on the planet. I will be starting a sustainable farming certificate program in April when I return home, and I am looking forward to building an even stronger connection to the land as I learn how to grow more of my own food and appreciate/identify the natural “grocery store/pharmacy” that surrounds me in the woods.

CE: How did you find out about Living Light Culinary Institute?
LJ: I found Living Light while looking for raw recipes on the internet, and then two people I know entered the Hot Raw Chef contest in 2011. Another friend from high school I connected with on Facebook (who I did not even know was interested in raw food) mentioned the Kitchen Angel program to me in September last year.

CE: What made you decide to become a Kitchen Angel?
LJ: I want to learn as much as I can about live foods because I engage in community work regarding sustainable lifestyle choices. When I called Living Light International to ask about the program (following an e-Newsletter announcement) and share my overall vision for community transformation, Karen suggested that I do a combination of culinary study with the Kitchen Angel program. It was an excellent suggestion and I am blessed that it all worked out. The basic culinary and nutrition classes followed by the hands-on applications in the LLCI kitchen has been life changing!

CE: What is your typical day as a Kitchen Angel?
LJ: A typical day as a Kitchen Angel involves being ready and able to do what is necessary to support the kitchen staff and instructors in supporting the students. From helping to prep for breakfast or lunch, to putting away produce orders, to keeping the kitchen and studio towels clean and properly stored, to gathering the raw materials for mis en place, to watching culinary demos, to cleaning up the kitchen after a productive day of preparing tasty raw foods… each day is unique and offers many opportunities for personal and professional growth and development.

CE: What do you like most about being an angel?
LJ: I liked the variety of each day offered (based on the diversity inside the culinary curriculum). I loved interacting with the kitchen staff, who were very supportive of my interest in learning and experiencing all that I could. I was encouraged to explore every opportunity available to me to build my skills in live foods preparation. I felt like a part of the team! I also enjoyed engaging with the students at lunch, during the culinary demos, and back at the Inn.

CE: What are your plans after you leave Living Light?
LJ: I am the co-founder/co-director of a nonprofit that has been implementing a constituency-led criminal/environmental justice initiative for under-served communities since 2004. Drawing from our experience using healthy food as a gateway to a larger conversation on social justice and sustainable living, we recently ended a 2-year, national biodiesel/veggie-oil bus tour which culminated in a solar-powered, vegan farm-to-fork dinner in Detroit with local foods, kids cooking, and culinary-related multi-media arts. Beginning in April 2012, we will be offering food demonstrations to youth/adults/seniors that will include the science behind plant-based nutrition; community cooking classes; farm/garden tours; recipes as remedies to encourage overall wellness and vitality; and, food shopping trips. Eventually, we want to collaborate with the local alternative/integrative medicine community, our regional food justice network and area restaurants, local/county drug courts, organic farmers around the state, and rural school districts. Our work supports raising the general public’s awareness of the causal connection between diet and disease to encourage connecting the dots between personal power, personal purpose, and planetary peace.

CE: You have an interesting way of reducing your carbon footprint, living off the grid. Can you share what that is?
LJ: My partner and I left city life for rural living off grid – solar power (for electricity), wood heat (for warmth), well water (for life), composting toilets (for health and wealth), family farming (for local/organic food), and waste vegetable oil/biodiesel (for fuel) – in 2002 to learn from the natural world how to develop practical strategies for manifesting abundance, clarity, and well-being in all aspects of our lives, and for community empowerment.

CE: What made you did you decide to live off the grid?
LJ: My partner and I wanted to experience a stronger bridge between the woods and our hoods through sustainable and self-determined lives in balance with the natural world when it comes to food, clothes, shelter, and community. Since moving off-grid, we have created a national network for people of color to promote living unplugged (renewable energy, permaculture, dry toilets, community food security, cooperative economics, rainwater collection, holistic medicine, composting and recycling, grey water systems, green building) while maintaining our cultural identities and power as people shifting our consciousness and renewing our spirits in honor of our ancestors and future generations.

CE: How long have you been living this way?
LJ: This September, we will celebrate 10 years living on the land. Living off grid does not mean that we live in total isolation. It just means that we have the unique opportunity to live more aligned with the natural world… and encourage others (through our example) to do the same!

CE: Is it easy eating raw and living off the grid?
LJ: It is easier in the warmer months, but still very doable even when it is cold. Eating in season makes eating raw on the East Coast interesting, and encourages creativity and flexibility. For example, being off grid means that my raw food preparation equipment (blender, dehydrator, food processor) is solar powered. In the Winter when there is less Sun, my ability to use these tools is dependent upon the amount of solar power available in balance with my other electrical needs. As a result, I dehydrate much less from November through February… but I find that during those months I am much more creative and open in thinking about my options to create tasty and healthy food.

CE: What advice can you offer those who would like to incorporate more raw foods into their life?
LJ: Start when you are ready; love yourself during your transition; and, add live foods to your menu planning in the amount (and with the regularity) that will support your success… and define success for yourself! We are all different and unique. No size fits all… so do what works for you and your lifestyle. Shifts are infinite, and health and wealth are lifetime journeys that support dynamic processes of growth and development in our lives. Be flexible and eat to live while you enjoy and savor every experience!

If you would like further information on attending Living Light classes or becoming a kitchen angel, please call an Enrollment Advisor at 707-964-2420

Over the next two months, Living Light will be taking its FUNdamentals class on the road. This class is the foundation of all our other classes – our flagship, as we like to call it. It’s absolutely packed with information about raw culinary arts and is designed to give anyone the base upon which to make a lifestyle change to whole, living, planet friendly foods. But is this base enough?

Most recently, we took FUNdamentals to San Diego where it was taught by two of our shining stars: Alicia Ojeda and Brenda Hinton. I spoke with one of our recent graduates, Kristen Johnson, about her experience both at the class in San Diego and how it led her to Living Light. Kristen grew up in San Diego, so she combined a trip to see her family with the opportunity to give Living Light a try. She and a friend attended the class and were impressed with both of the instructors’ knowledge and love for Living Light. Alicia brought the history to life while Brenda explained how the school works and what it can do for you. Both Kristen and her friend left the class with a kindled passion for raw foods – and Kristen with the intention to learn more.

Kristen is now a certified Associate Raw Food Chef and Instructor and Raw Pastry Chef. When she returned home to Brooklyn, New York after the FUNdamentals class, she got to work right away – putting her new knowledge into practice. But she knew she needed more. Her journey began at an “on the road” class, and in just a couple months’ time it included a Living Light certification. Fabulous!

Whether you’re as driven as Kristen or if you just want to get your feet wet, keep an eye on our website for a FUNdamentals class on a road near you. It’s a great way to get started and will send you home ready to do your own sprouting, juicing and more. And who knows – it may begin a raw culinary education that will change your life path forever.

Sam Romano is a 21-year old from  Bartlett, IL a small town an hour outside of Chicago.   He is a recent graduate of Living Light’s Raw Culinary Arts Associate Chef and Instructor Training™. Sam has been a vegetarian for four years before he discovered the raw food lifestyle. After high school Sam dove into researching nutrition.  He discovered raw foods when he was a student at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and from there he decided he wanted a career as a Holistic Health Counselor.   He took a course at the Tree of Life and very quickly made the decision to take his culinary career to the next level by attending Living Light Culinary Institute. His goal is to open his own raw business selling high-quality raw food, super foods,   juices, smoothies and raw meals.

Get to know Sam Romano in Living Light’s Chef Spotlight.

Chef Experience: How did you get interested in raw foods at such a young age?
Sam Romano: It was really a long gradual process. In elementary school, my doctor said I had A.D.D. and gave me drugs to help me. After going through three different ones like Ritalin and Adderall, [they] made me dizzy and not talk. I never liked taking them and stopped very quickly. Then he said to stop eating Red dye 40, a food coloring, that I was consuming everyday, in High-C Fruit punch. After that I started reading all the labels on food I ate.

And in high school, my friend went to India, and came back a vegan, and showed me animal cruelty videos. and I was so shocked, and I became conscious that the meat on my plate was an animal that probably didn’t have a good life. So I was vegetarian for four years, and just this summer I started eating superfoods like hemp, spirulina, Goji, chlorella, cacao and that help me get off dairy and eggs and move towards becoming a nutritarian.

CE: What is a nutritarian?
SR: A nutritarian is someone who is on a nutrient dense diet, and only eats things that have beneficial vitamins and minerals.

CE: How long have you been eating raw food diet?
SR: I’ve been high raw for 10 months, since June 2011.  A lot of days 100%, sometimes I eat beans and good whole grains, sweet potato and acorn squash when they are in season.

CE: How has raw foods changed your life?
SR: It’s changed in so many ways. Everyday is so amazing, I feel so blessed and appreciate everything so much more, it really opened me up to spirituality, I can recall my memory so much better, mental clarity. I’m a lot stronger as an athlete and my endurance has gone up!!

CE: When did you know that you wanted to be a gourmet raw vegan chef?
SR: Well after high school, I just had to get out of my town, so me and my friend moved to California. Where I was a ski bum, I worked at Sierra at Tahoe Resort. Where I got over 120 days of snowboarding in. That’s when I realized how much money it cost to live the way I wanted to. So I moved back home and asked the universe what am I going to do for a career in my life. I asked for guidance, and I was on my computer everyday just looking up amazing facts on superfoods. When I found David Wolfe. He got me into raw foods and one day I was watching an interview with him and he mentioned the Tree of Life with Dr. Gabriel Cousens, and It looked so amazing I decided I wanted to go there. And that’s when it hit me that I should look into making raw foods and that I really wanted to spread the word as much as I possibly could.

CE: How did you find out about Living Light Culinary Institute?
SR: I just Google’d ‘raw culinary schools’ and searched through a couple and Living Light really stood out to me.

CE: When deciding on a school, what were the major factors that played a part in your decision? What were you looking for?
SR: The environment plays a big part. Fort Bragg looked like an amazing spot to me i love the out doors and Trees. and LL looked really professional. it looked legit. and at the same time relaxed, and chill. It was 100% organic. and they really are helpful to beginners.

CE:   What was your first week at the Living Light Culinary Institute like?
SR: They started you off slow but we got to see a lot of demos. and it was consistent. They really have the teaching schedule perfect and they know how to train people well.

CE: What is your favorite dish that you have created so far?
SR: I really loved the living lasagna.

CE: What was so special about this particular dish?
SR: It really had the cooked look, after putting the lasagna in the dehydrator the cheese started to turn golden.

CE: Which Living Light courses are you most looking forward to taking?
SR: Gourmet certification, and Pastry Unbaked.

CE: What is your typical day at school like?
SR:  Smoothies at 8:45.  Nine o’clock we discuss different topics then we go in and watch a demo, then we get to make what we just saw in the demo.

CE: What do you like most about attending Living Light?
SR:  I really enjoyed the instructors and the information and how you schedule the day. They’re jam-packed days.

CE: What is the most challenging?
SR: Talking in front of people.

CE: Where do you see yourself after graduation from Living Light Culinary Institute?
SR: I can see myself working at a raw restaurant in Chicago, making raw desserts for weddings and parties. Going to Korea to do demos, and eventually I want to open my own raw café.

CE: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
SR: Teaching people how to be raw. Doing demos and holding workshops, making some of the best raw foods.

CE: What advice do you have for anyone thinking about a career in the raw foods?
SR:  Keep it simple, get as much of your food local or start a garden and only support organic.

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