In celebration of our 20th Anniversary, we are connecting with graduates. This month we connected with Living Light Graduate, Johanna Sambucini
LL: What drew you to plant-based/ raw food cuisine?
JS: During my early twenties - “the college years” - I struggled with digestive issues, cystic acne, a hip injury, constant stress, dehydration, and extreme weight loss (I dropped 12lbs fast). I was constantly under the public eye as a model, fitness and pageant titleholder. Upon graduating from grad school, I was seeing multiple doctors to help me with my gut and cystic acne. The pressures I had to lose weight, being constantly critiqued by the media, and overall workload really took a toll on my mental, physical and emotional health.
I was always interested in health, nutrition, and fitness but I never really understood what it really was about until I was affected by it. After seeing multiple doctors and not getting better, I decided to see a couple of holistic doctors instead. I met with an Ayurvedic doctor, iridologist, kinesiologist, and a naturopath. I also did a lot of research on my own about holistic nutrition, corrective exercises, yoga, herbs, and mind/body medicine. I was hooked! I realized that my calling in life is to help people, especially individuals dealing with digestive health because I can totally relate. I became a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, which led to me Living Light Culinary. I wanted to learn more about healing foods and understand raw food, how to make dishes, and become a plant-based educator.
LL: When you attended Living Light, what did you enjoy about the school?
JS: The staff was so friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and passionate. I really enjoyed Essentials week and Vegan/Raw Nutrition Courses. Some of the dishes we made were amazingly delicious. It also felt like family and being a part of a community of like-minded people between staying at Living Light Inn and going to school. It was a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to come back for Gourmet/Mastery next year!
LL: Who are the culinary inspirations in your life right now?
JS: My Living Light teachers - Alicia Ojeda, James Sant, Vesanto Melina, Brenda Davis, who first introduced me to plant-based living foods, my current teachers at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC, Ayurvedic Dr. Naina Marbali who introduced me to Ayurvedic Nutrition, and Dr. Ed Bauman, and Joshua Rosenthal who introduced me to integrative nutrition.
LL: Do you have any exciting projects going on that you'd like to share?
SB: Yes! I was recently featured on the cover of Asana International Yoga Journal. I also just finished writing an article for Yoga Magazine on Ayurveda and Gut Health which comes out in July. I started Probiotically Fit, a holistic brand that focuses on functional nutrition, wellness, and lifestyle. I am also currently continuing my studies in Holistic Nutrition at Bauman College through distance learning and Natural Chef training at The Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. And lastly, my friend and I are planning a “Yoga and Healthy Eating” Retreat in the Bahamas next year. We call ourselves the Samadhi Tribe.