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Raw Food Planet's
Exclusive Interview

with raw food chef & co-founder of the
Living Light Culinary Institute
Cherie Soria




Photo coutesy of Living Light Culinary Institute


Most of us have our favorite "comfort foods" in the realm of cooked food cuisine. Is there a way one can transition to living food cuisine without missing those comfort food favorites?

Living Light specializes in helping students create foods that nourish the body and satisfy the soul, and in our classes, beginning with our Three Part Associate Chef and Instructor Series, FUNdamentals of Living Foods, Essentials of Raw Culinary Arts, and Associate Chef and Instructor Training, we help students learn to create foods that are delicious, while also satisfying our the need for familiar comfort foods, including such favorites as burgers, lasagna, enchiladas, tortillas, nut and seed cheeses, pates, salad dressings, sauces, breakfast foods, brownies, cheesecake, apple pie, and more!

We teach students how to use a variety of kitchen gadgets and equipment specifically adapted to the raw foods kitchen, including the spiralizer, mandolin, high speed blender, and dehydrator. We‚ve developed specialized techniques including texturizing, marinating, and massaging to create foods that have the look, feel, taste, and satisfaction of the familiar foods we know and love. Students learn both flavor balancing and knife skills as they become comfortable creating foods with a cooked taste, appearance, and mouth feel using vibrant raw and living foods. Soaking, sprouting, culturing, and fermenting are also ways of transforming both the vital energy and the appearance or texture of foods.

What could be more delicious than an almond cheese torte with basil pesto, and sundried tomato layers? It sounds complicated, but in our progressive class structure, students learn basics first, and progress in their skills and understanding of culinary arts with each session, right up to the advanced recipe development classes. We empower our students with the practical knowledge they need to develop confidence, creativity, and expertise in the raw kitchen.

In the advanced classes students learn all sorts of new recipes, and ways of creating recipes, like Mushroom Stroganoff and Vegan Bay Crab Cakes. We are especially excited about the introduction of our new Pastry Arts Unbaked! class August 18-21, before our 4th Annual Vibrant Living Expo and Culinary Showcase. Chef Vinnette Thompson and I will be co-teaching this advanced pastry arts workshop, and it will be phenomenal!

Is Living Light Culinary Arts Institute specifically for people who want to become living food chefs, or does it cater to individuals who simply want to expand their knowledge and preparation skills?

Living Light is open to all students, from those who want to become professional chefs and those who want to teach classes, to home chefs who simply wish to learn to make nutritious, delicious foods that will enhance their health, and contribute to the well being of their families. Only about 30% of people want to make food service their full-time work. Also, some of our students who have encountered health challenges, weight issues, or lack of stamina and vitality discover raw foods and find that they can improve their health very quickly with raw foods. After discovering the power of raw foods, they want to learn how to make satisfying gourmet meals they can serve to friends and family. Many people who had never thought of themselves as teachers become so empowered by our trainings that they find themselves conducting their own classes in their particular communities. There are so many ways to help. Children's classes, catering meals for the elderly, church groups, hospitals, potluck groups, and so forth. Almost every area of our society can be helped by learning more about raw foods and health.

An important point to mention is that it doesn‚t matter how 'raw' people are when they come to our school. We embrace and accept people where they are on their path, and support them in setting health and fitness goals and following through in whatever way seems appropriate for them. Of course we've had plenty of students come to the school thinking they would only take FUNdamentals, and then getting so inspired that they register for an additional three weeks or more of classes on the spot!

Living Light Culinary Arts Institute is a very impressive facility with beautifully designed, well-equipped kitchens, spacious classrooms, offices, a Marketplace store, a café and juice bar. Can you tell us the general age range of your students, and what some of your graduates are doing right now?

Our students range in age from mid 20's (we've had several younger than that), to their 70's. For those who choose a career in raw foods, there are a variety of possibilities. Our students have gone on to create restaurants and home delivery businesses; they've become raw food chefs and teachers, corporate chefs, school administrators, television personalities, and so on. It's a market that keeps expanding. The world is becoming a place where more and more people are realizing the value of healthy lifestyles. Life-transforming ways of making foods that nourish and heal the body are in the forefront of the news headlines today, and the Raw Food Revolution is leading the way to better health. We are proud to say the Living Light graduates include some of the top raw food chefs and teachers in the world today.

Some of our graduates include raw food luminaries like Roxanne Klein (author with Charlie Trotter of 'Raw'), Chad Sarno, (gourmet raw chef, consultant, kitchen designer and teacher, and one of the owners of LifeCo, an international company opening raw restaurants around the world), Elaina Love (international teacher, author of 'Pure Joy Living Foods', and owner of Café Soulstice in the Bay Area), Jenny Cornbleet (author of 'Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 people', teacher, and owner of Learn Raw Food in Chicago), Rene Loux Underkoffler (author of 'Living Cuisine', and 'The Balanced Plate'), Matt Samuelson (owner of High Integrity Foods, who has recently debuted a classic gourmet raw chocolate bar, The Golden Bean), Sergei and Valya Boutenko (who have written several books on their own, as well as co-authoring several books with parents Victoria and Igor Boutenko, the Raw Family).

Living Light Culinary Arts Institute is located in a relatively remote area in northern California, and Fort Bragg is a small town. Yet, our students converge here from every corner of the globe. We've had students from over 30 countries, including all over Europe, Central and South America, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Iceland, Amman in the Middle East, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand, to name a few. It's both heartwarming and rewarding to know that the work we've been doing for over 10 years is becoming very well known and respected worldwide.

As Founder and Co-Director of Living Light Culinary Arts Institute, what do you see as the future of raw/living foods cuisine?

The planet is experiencing a health crisis of epidemic proportions. Obesity is rampant, not only among adults in the industrialized countries, but now even among our children. People are fed up with being sick, and are seeking solutions to their health challenges. The health care system is failing to be proactive in helping people achieve better health. It has been said that the current generation of children born in the United States may be the first in generations to have a lower life expectancy than their parents enjoy. Raised on fast foods, soft drinks, processed foods, hormone laden meats and dairy products, vegetables which have been treated with pesticides, and grown in depleted soils, or manipulated by GMO technology, these children are not being given a fair chance to grow and thrive normally.

People just don't trust mainstream medicine and industrialized agribusiness anymore. They are realizing that they need to take their health in their own hands, and are seeking healthy alternatives. There is a revolution in consciousness underway, and I know that my upcoming book 'The Raw Food Diet Revolution', co-authored with Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis, will be an important catalyst in helping people feel new hope for our future, and a healthier planet as well.

It's also important for us to create businesses that are green, and eco-friendly. All of our businesses at Living Light, including the culinary school, Living Light Café, Living Light Marketplace, and Living Light Inn are green businesses. All of our foods are organic, and we teach our students about organics, composting, recycling, and kitchen gardening, including growing sprouts and wheatgrass. Our café uses compostable corn take out containers and cutlery, recycled napkins, and the inn has all organic bedding and a fully equipped raw food kitchen for our students. With the shocking statistics about global warming, it's important for each of us to come up with sustainable solutions for our food, our cleaning products, and everything we do that creates a carbon footprint on the earth. Part of the revolution is creating a world that works for all of us, and health is our first priority.

I invite everyone to visit our website, www.RawFoodChef.com to learn more about the Vibrant Living Expo, our classes, and Living Light Inn.

©2008-2014 Peter E. Firk