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Archive for March, 2012

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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Lucky girl am I to have had the opportunity to take Living Light’s Food Styling for Photography class with Cristina Archila.  The class is unique because its primary focus is on gourmet raw cuisine.  It is the first Living Light class I have taken since graduating the Gourmet Culinary program in 2010.    And I feel it is the most awesomely creative class to have experienced here at Living Light.  Well, maybe it’s a close second to the recipe development classes of Ethnic and RawFusion Spa Cuisine.     Either way you learn a lot of the tricks and techniques of the Food styling trade.  The class covers the equipment a food stylist uses, plating skills, how to use sauces as paint, using props to describe a recipe, how to the direct the eye’s flow to the image in the photograph and so much more.  My favorite tip I learned involved a potato and toothpicks.   You have to take the class to get that one.

You look at food differently as a food stylist than as a chef but the process for me is very similar. You aren’t necessarily worried if the food will taste good, because believe me; you would not want to eat food styling food.   Think of denture cream holding a cherry tomato in place on a bowl of lettuce.  Not too appetizing, but very effective.

As a chef, I am a HUGE planner.  I scour through cooked recipes to find just the right one to create a raw version and I take numerous notes and write and rewrite a recipe before I gather my mise en place and begin testing (and re-testing) in the kitchen.  All before I have a completed dish.

I was able to use the skills I had a chef during the Food Styling for Photography hands-on portion of the class, we had the opportunity to wear the food stylist hat.  My process was similar to that of my chef‘s chapeau. 

Below was my development in styling a raw pasta dish.

1. Use a prep chart to design my dish.

2.  Gather the ingredients (zucchini pasta, red sauce, pesto,  top secret ingredients used to create a white sauce) and equipment. 

3.  Paint the pasta.

4.  Add the garnishes.

5.  Photograph the finished dish.

This rapid-fire, one-day course was informative, fun and definitively stretched my creative muscles to the max.

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Check out some of the tasty appetizers from  Living Light’s current Associate Chef and Instructor students.  All beautifully styled by Cristina Archila.

Avocado Carpaccio with Sesame Lemon Dressing

Fresh Zucchini Roll with Creamy Cashew Sauce

Zucchini Cups with Creamy Rosemary Sauce

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