Chronic illness and a family history of heart disease and cancer motivated me at an early age to study about health and the cause of disease. I saw family members who had been slender as youngsters become obese and develop diabetes, heart problems, and other diet-related, life-threatening conditions. I was determined to escape what was likely to rob me of a life of health and vitality. This led me to embrace a vegetarian diet in my early twenties and, ultimately, to teach others about its benefits.
I have always been a gifted chef—I won my first cooking contest at the age of 12. By the time I discovered the raw food diet, I was 44 years old and had been teaching vegetarian culinary arts for nearly 20 years. I was active and athletic; an avid skier and tennis player, and even earned two black belts in karate (now I have three!).
In 1983 I was in a major airplane crash that had a tremendous impact on my life. It gave me the opportunity to practice what I preached and take my healing into my own hands. I refused surgery and worked with therapists in massage and acupuncture. I also used creative visualization and optimal nutrition to speed my healing. Even though doctors told me that I might never walk again, my body was able to heal 100%.
In 1990, I read the book, Be Your Own Doctor by a remarkable woman named Ann Wigmore, who was treating people diagnosed with terminal illnesses using raw foods. I decided to go to her clinic in Puerto Rico to learn more. When I first went to the Ann Wigmore Institute, I thought of it more as a cleansing program than a lifestyle. I certainly had no intention of changing my lifestyle or giving up the popular vegan cooking classes I had been teaching for two decades. I did not consider the possibility of continuing to eat a raw food diet when I returned home.
The diet there was mostly wheatgrass juice, blended fruits and sprouts, and salads with fermented seed sauces for lunch and dinner. The food was not what most people would enjoy eating everyday. Still, after seeing the “miraculous” weight-loss and healing effects of her program, I decided to devote myself to developing a delicious, raw vegan cuisine that people could enjoy every day for the rest of their lives.
I began to develop a raw plant based cuisine with delicious flavors and contrasting textures. Dr. Ann was my best “customer” and mentor. When she told me “You will be a beacon of light for my teachings,” I knew that I had a mission.
I set my sights on creating comfort foods. Twenty years as a chef had taught me that people need to feed their emotions as much as their bodies; so even though simple raw foods could help people overcome disease, I knew they would go back to their old way of eating unless they had delicious options that would keep them healthy.
I returned home motivated to develop a gourmet raw vegan cuisine. With my culinary talent, I knew I could create delicious foods that everybody would enjoy. I found it truly creative and exciting to be designing a new culinary art that was delicious and satisfying, and I started teaching classes to my culinary students, who became as excited as I was.
Since I started Living Light Culinary Institute in 1998, thousands of people from more than 60 countries have come to the school. Their goals can be as simple as making healthier meals for themselves and their families, or as complex as learning all the culinary, nutrition, and business skills needed to support an exciting new career in raw foods. No matter what the goal, we’re dedicated to supporting all of our students in becoming the best that they can be. Enjoy this slideshow of some of our student creations!