Posts Tagged ‘Living Light Culinary Institute’

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


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

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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

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