After 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!!!!
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!
CE: 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!
CE: 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™.