A Week at Living Light Culinary Institute

Last November, I hesitantly entered the Living Light "Hot Raw Chef" video competition. I say hesitantly, since if you know me, I tend to be a bit shy and prefer to stay out of the limelight (whenever I can). So, me on a video? Let's just say that I waited until the due date to actually film and submit. 

It so happened that I won the competition, which was a complete surprise to me; I was grateful that perhaps the heavens had a plan for me, one I didn't know of yet. 

Fast forward to August 14th, when I board the plane headed for San Francisco, CA...and then two shuttle busses later, I arrive at the Living Light Inn. I was exhausted but excited.....could I be both?  Yes. I entered this gorgeous Inn, surrounded by foliage I've never seen before, flowers I've never seen before, scents! I should probably say that wherever you walk in Fort Bragg, it smells like flowers. Not sure which kind...a hint of rosemary that everyone uses for hedges, succulents, vibrant pink flowers, and flowering evergreens. The Inn is historic, filters all of their water (including the showers!), and has organic bedding and towels ready for each and every one who comes in. There are books to peruse on healthy eating, a fully-stocked kitchen complete with a vitamix, blendtec, juicers, and every gadget you'd need to make this raw vegan kitchen perfect for all of our needs.

And then the classes begin. FUNdamentals is our first class, where we witness over 15 demos of delicious recipes, including sprouting, juicing, nut cheeses, crackers, brownies, pate, everything under the sun. Lunch was vibrant and filling, and then more demos. Day two (one of my favorites) consisted of meditations with carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers...KNIFE SKILLS. Dice, baton, mince, bias cuts, you name it. And, along the way, we added what we cut to our salads and had another feast.

 Lunch is served...

Lunch is served...

 Cucumber flower. 

Cucumber flower. 

 Radish "mushrooms". Think Smurfs!

Radish "mushrooms". Think Smurfs!

 Tomato Flowers. 

Tomato Flowers. 

The remainder of the week, I took Essentials which topped it all. Most days, I'd go into the commercial raw food kitchen and help wash, flip elements in the dehydrator, check on the kraut, help make smoothies, you name it. I was on cloud 9 simply being told where I should go, what I should do...being a part of the magic behind the scenes. And I felt a great sense of team loyalty and camaraderie. Everyone had a part, and we all helped each other. I also enjoyed seeing how organized everything was, labeled, in compartments, and nothing went to waste - scraps were either juiced or put into another batch of crackers. 

The chefs were over-the-top professional and inspiring. The students I was lucky to work with came form all over the world: Singapore, Australia, Germany, Hawaii, Canada, Massachusetts, some from California. At night, we'd walk home to the Inn together, make fun recipes, stay up way too late, sing and play the piano (I even got to play a Bossa Nova with everyone), and watch creations come alive (of course, we all shared). Oh, and yes, there was homework, and we got to do that too. 

The whole experience was life-changing, from the instructors & students I met, to watching the sun set in the ocean, hugging sequoia trees, coming upon waterfalls, seeing new plants I've never seen before, creating crazy recipes with friends and even making a video on my last night with a  dear friend at 11:00 pm. 

You'll be seeing many more recipes and classes which stem from the knowledge I've gained from Living Light, but even more so, a renewed inspiration to share with people the benefits of plant-based foods. Thank you, Living Light for an unforgettable experience. Thank you, heavens, for making it possible.