Living Light Culinary Institute educates students from around the world. The expertise they acquire as Living Light graduates equips them to pursue culinary paths and endeavors as diverse as they are ambitious. Read some of their inspirational stories below!
Name: Felix Schoener
Career: Currently at Fivelements Puri Ahimsa in charge of the Sakti Restaurant, (winner of the Spa Cuisine of the Year" award at AsiaSpa Awards 2014)
"During the “Fivelements Dinner Club” experience we tried a great variety of dishes and each one was surprisingly impeccable with balanced savors and stunning presentation. The cuisine is created to promote the philosophy of ‘wellbeing through nutrition’ and the Sakti menu contains only fresh and healthy dishes, expertly handcrafted by world recognized Chef Felix Schoener according to the raw organic gastronomy motives. I am not a vegetarian or raw food person, but eating at Sakti Dining Room™ could inspire one to change!"
Marcello Massoni (CEO Gaya Ceramic and Design) & Michel
Personal: Felix loves to travel, meet new people, spend time with his Mother (who inspired him to vegetarianism) and continue to learn how to “let the soul of produce shine” with inspired raw living cuisine.
Quote: “I enjoy marrying my love of raw living foods with the ancient disciplines of Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, as well as macrobiotics, avant-garde, modernist cuisine, and the emerging green gastronomy movement.”
Bio: Originally from Bremen, Germany, Chef Felix Schoener had an illustrious career apprenticing and working at several Michelin-starred restaurants and gaining many awards along the way, before he discovered raw living foods. He was a chef for several years at The Farm at San Benito in the Philippines, a beautiful resort and healing spa serving gourmet raw vegan cuisine. Felix also trained with Dr. Gabriel Cousens at Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia. Cherie and Dan invited Felix to Living Light to be a presenter at the Vibrant Living Expo, and we fell in love with him and his creative spirit. He stayed for six months and worked with founder, Cherie to develop new recipes.
Name: Chad Sarno
Location: Austin, Texas
Career: Whole Foods Market
Personal: Loves to travel, enjoys fine dining and organic wine bars
Quote: “Living Light has had an important impact on my path and has inspired countless others. I honor Cherie and her vision, and offer high respect, praise, appreciation, and of course my support in all that Living Light continues to achieve in the world. Cherie Soria has been a huge influence on my life, and I’ll always be grateful.”
Bio: Chad began as a Living Light student, and continued his education, becoming a Living Light Certified Professional Raw Food Chef and Instructor. He was head chef and one of our esteemed instructors at Living Light in the early years, traveling the world with us and building relationships in the raw community. He has since gone on to do amazing things in the world, to international acclaim. Chad partnered with a boutique international lifestyle company based in central Europe as Executive Chef and Concept Developer and launched the SAF restaurant brand; an exciting fine dining, green gastronomy concept highlighting health supportive cuisine and organic wine bars. With Chad’s expertise, the company successfully launched restaurants in Istanbul, Munich, and London. Chad is currently working with Whole Foods Market co-creating and assisting with the launch of a company-wide Healthy Eating Initiative driven by CEO John Mackey. He is a Living Light graduate to watch!
Name: Tina Singleton
Location: Charleston, North Carolina
Bio: Living Light graduate, Tina Singleton, is a multi-talented woman. A fashion industry professional turned international development worker turned farmer, she lived and worked abroad for many years. For 6 years she lived in Afghanistan before returning to the states. She was accepted into the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture program at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz and also received her training as a Gourmet Raw Food Chef and Culinary Instructor at Living Light Culinary Institute in 2015. Her personal experience of the unexpected bonds that are created through sharing a meal with someone very different from you was one of the inspirations for her creation. When searching for a way to overcome the cultural differences that increasingly separate people of different ethnic, religious, life experiences and belief systems, Tina launched Transformation Table. This Charleston-based organization believes that inviting strangers to our tables allows us to see the humanity in each other, thereby fostering empathy and genuine connection.
Quote: "My time there (at Living Light) set me on my food journey that eventually wound around to Transformation Table."
Name: Mizpah Matus
Location: Costa Rica
Career: Nutritionist, raw food chef and author of The Raw Food Solution
Certification(s): Associate Chef and Instructor, Gourmet Raw Food Chef and Instructor
Personal: Loves to travel, teach and inspire others.
Quote: “As long as I remember I've had a passion for healthy food that also tastes fantastic. So when I discovered the raw food movement - and especially the creativity of gourmet raw cuisine - I was hooked. However, what ultimately inspired me to study at Living Light was Cherie Soria's unique approach that places an equal emphasis on nutrition and flavor. As a nutritionist I tend to focus on the health benefits of a recipe but I do not want to compromise on taste!”
Bio: After experiencing dramatic improvements in her own personal health with a raw food diet, Mizpah was inspired to share her experiences and knowledge with others. She is the author of an exciting new book, The Raw Food Solution, a step-by-step guide to help people optimize their nutrition. Mizpah also offers online health and detox programs. “Since graduating from Living Light, my confidence in my culinary skills has greatly increased and I now love to create my own original recipes. My husband and I travel a lot, and I've learned to work with whatever is available in my environment. It is especially rewarding to adapt the local flavors and ingredients to produce a nutritious and satisfying raw meal. My learning experience was about more than the food. It was also an opportunity to grow on a personal level with the support offered by our wonderful instructors and fellow students. It was a delight to be in an environment where people were undergoing genuine transformation, and were open to communicating on a heart-felt level.”
Name: Julie Van den Kerchove
Personal: Besides spending time in the kitchen, she loves to work out, swim, watch art house movies, enjoy long walks on the beach and go out with friends.
Quote: “The moment I found out about the professional raw food training at Living Light, I knew my life was never going to be the same again. My partner Simon and I made a very impulsive decision to invest our savings and time in what is considered the best raw food chef and teacher training in the world, and we have never looked back! The highly professional raw food training offered at Living Light has enabled us to return to Europe with more knowledge, skills and experience than we could have ever imagined possible! It has empowered and inspired us to start a raw food business in order to spread the raw food message not only in Belgium but all around the world.
Bio: Julie and her partner Simon offer raw culinary workshops to clients one-on-one, and to groups in Belgium, Spain, Italy and France. Her three greatest passions are healthy food, exercise and traveling. Her journey to optimal health started at the age of 15. She became a conscious vegetarian, but from a young age struggled with weight issues. As a college student studying journalism, her diet progressively deteriorated and she began to have health problems, including constant fatigue, negative thoughts, mood swings and anxiety attacks. When she could no longer recognize herself as the positive, energetic woman she had been, she realized that she needed to make major dietary and lifestyle changes, and decided to enroll as a Living Light student. The rest is an inspiring story of transformation!
Name: Judita Wignall
Location: Long Beach, California
Career: Raw Food Instructor, Recipe Book Author, Actress, Musician
Certification(s): Associate Chef and Instructor
Personal: Loves rock-and-roll music
Quote: “I’m so grateful that I followed my passion and attended Living Light. I could never have done all I have so quickly without the expert training I received. I now have a book deal with a great publishing company, I’ve been invited to teach classes all over the country, I’m developing products for clients, and I’ve been invited to cater retreats in beautiful, tropical locations. I had no idea of the varied opportunities that exist in the world of raw food, and I’m beyond excited to see where this road will take me to next.”
Bio: Living Light Associate Chef and Instructor Judita Wignall is a musician and actress who loves rock and roll. Her all girl band the Halo Friendlies earned a gold record with a version of Me vs. the World. Judita is the “Judy Nails” character in the wildly successful video game Guitar Hero, and she has appeared on episodes of CSI: New York, Charmed, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Judita came to raw foods a little reluctantly. Previously she had never enjoyed being in the kitchen, but when she realized how nourishing and healing raw food cuisine can be, everything changed. Dropping 15 pounds in just one month, Judita noticed that she had lots of energy and a mental clarity she hadn’t felt in ages. She became “obsessed” with making raw food as delicious as possible, and bought every raw food book she could find. When she came to Living Light she had no idea of how the training would change her life. Energized and inspired, she couldn’t wait to start teaching classes and coming up with her own repertoire of raw food recipes. She found herself a working Hollywood actress by day and a raw chef by night. Judita’s first recipe book is "Going Raw."
Name: Made Runatha
Personal: Loves food garnishing; Carved all the Living Light Inn Halloween pumpkins in 2009
Quote: “His practical skills and knowledge combined with his natural born creative culinary talents combine to make Made one of the leading chefs in Asia and we are all very grateful to Living Light.” ~ Lahra Tatriele, co-owner and founder Fivelements Puri Ahimsa
Bio: Chef Made Runatha, a Living Light Gourmet Raw Food Chef is making a name for himself at one of the finest facilities in Asia. At Fivelements Puri Ahimsa, Chef Made is surrounded by tropical beauty, creating gourmet living food for the beautiful healing retreat center nestled along the Ayung River in Bali. Fivelements is part of an eco-conscious business hoping to promote peace among nations through an alliance of healing centers worldwide. As a classically trained chef, he’s especially excited about the discovery of new flavors as he revisits the classics with knowledge gained at Living Light in marinating, dehydrating, sprouting, and flavor combining in exciting new ways.
Name: Jason Wrobel
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Career: Raw food chef and instructor, creates videos, and is in negotiation for a cable television program highlighting a healthy lifestyle.
Certification(s): Associate Chef and Instructor
Personal: Loves to travel, explore new places, and start new aspects of his business.
Quote: “I came away from the school feeling totally empowered,” he says. “The curriculum at Living Light Culinary Institute offers such a wide swath of comprehensive information. I left the school armed with a whole new skill set, and I was ready to move into my career as a raw chef.”
Bio: After graduating from Living Light, Jason headed for New York, where he was head chef at Matthew Kenney’s Jiva Muktea Café, serving a variety of raw and cooked vegan dishes. In San Francisco, Jason served private clients, honing his skills. Now in Los Angeles, he loves the city because of the responsiveness of the people who live there. “There is definitely a demand for my services here,” he says. “I always have plenty of steady work, and I’ve been privileged to work with a number of celebrities who want to be slim and fit, and who need bundles of energy to keep up with all day shooting schedules, and the demands of their profession. The raw food community is huge here, with so many restaurants, parties, potlucks, meet up groups, raw food vendors and caterers at events – it is mind-blowing!” His first video, Jason Wrobel’s Simple Vegan Classics, 10 Everyday Raw Food Recipes for Health and Longevity is part of a video series highlighting his simple cuisine.
Name: Elisabeth Gard
Career: Nutritionist, Teaches raw food classes
Personal: Loves skiing and being outdoors, teaching skiing to children, traveling, spending time with family and friends.
Quote: “It is a wonderful idea to make a list of all your dreams that you want to come true. Even without realizing it, most of the things you have in your life today once started as a hopeful dream – so if your dream is to attend Living Light and learn how to prepare beautiful, healthy raw food, your dream can definitely come true!
Bio: The summer when I was 14 years old, I worked as a milkmaid on a mountain pasture with my best friend Marianne. In the pasture was a calf and I immediately became fond of him. He was so cute, with a light coat and beautiful big round eyes. He followed his mother everywhere as she grazed in the fields. During the following weeks, I spent a lot of time with him, and our bond grew strong... my experience with this dear little calf put me on the path to becoming a vegetarian, but I’ve always enjoyed eating fruit and vegetables. I was first introduced to raw food as a teenager, when some family members started to explore the raw food diet. From the first moment, I loved visiting them and tasting all the wonderful vegetable juices, sesame milk, nuts and seeds. My deep love for animals gradually led me to become a vegan and today I flourish on a diet of primarily raw, organic plant food. I have a Bachelors Degree in Nutrition and I’m a certified Raw Food Chef and Instructor from Living Light Culinary Institute. At the moment, I am living on a beautiful hillside in Norway, surrounded by nature. I love skiing and being outdoors. During the wintertime, I work as a ski-instructor for children - a wonderfully inspiring and refreshing occupation. My website, Butterfly Nutrition, encourages visitors to “flourish on pure, raw plant food.” www.butterfly-nutrition.no.
Name: Sunita Vira
Career: Owner of The Raw Food Centre, Singapore
Personal: Traveling, Fundraising
Quote: “The Living Light education I received has been the essence of my inspiration. I wear your chef jacket with pride!”
Bio: Sunita Vira, a certified Gourmet Raw Food Chef, is founder of The Raw Food Centre, Singapore. With her Indian heritage and background in art, Sunita loves to explore her creative passions with ethnic flavors from many cultures. She enjoys the delicate balance of color, flavor, texture, taste, smell and visual appeal of specialty cuisines like Asian Fusion, Mexican, Indian, Japanese, and Thai. As part of her community and educational outreach, Sunita donated all of the class fees from her initial classes to varied charities. Sunita’s husband’s company agreed to match her donations to benefit a variety of worthwhile causes. The commercial aspect of Sunita’s company will include selling packaged raw food products to retail supermarkets.
Name: Brenda Hinton
Location: Napa, California
Career: Living Light Associate Chef and Instructor™, Founder of Rawsome Creations in St. Helena, California
Personal: International Charities, Community Work
Quote: “What began as a simple journey has grown into a career path filled with encouragement, growth, creativity, and excitement. I’m now teaching at Whole Foods Markets, assisting international organizations, and helping in many locations throughout the world. The foundation of knowledge and skill I’ve received at Living Light has helped me launch projects I would not have dreamed possible!”
Bio: A certified Living Light Associate Chef and Instructor who now teaches at Living Light, Brenda is the founder of Rawsome Creations in St. Helena, California. Brenda’s passion is teaching others how to prepare gourmet raw foods. She also helps support two charities in Indonesia with revenues from her line of nut milk bags, fair trade produced in Bali. One of the projects dearest to Brenda’s heart is her position as Project Director for the Ceres Community Project in Napa Valley. She loves the educational part of this important community effort, which weaves together relationships between farmers, local food producers, young people, and those with health challenges. Brenda will be one of the Living Light instructors taking FUNdamentals of Raw Living Foods™ on the road.
Name: Kirsten Gum
Personal: Loves yoga, hiking & traveling
Quote: “I was blessed to come to Living Light and gained so much knowledge and love from them that now I feel it is my duty in life to go out and share with others. I love being able to show people that you can eat yummy foods with beautiful five-star presentation that is also good for your body. I came here for personal enrichment and it’s turned into a career.”
Bio: Living Light Gourmet Raw Food Chef Kirsten Gum’s fun-loving spirit and passion for extreme experiences have helped her build an unconventional career, first in television and adventure travel, and now with the healing power of raw food and her company Raw Trips. Her main focus is to bring gourmet raw food to the mainstream. A certified yoga instructor, Kirsten loves teaching others how to live a green, sustainable lifestyle and sets a great example. She gave up her car several years ago, and keeps fit with running, biking, hiking, and daily yoga. Raw Trips does weekend retreats and week-long immersions offering raw food instruction, yoga classes, meditation, travel excursions, and entertainment. Raw Trips retreats also include the cultural and historical aspects of beautiful places like Mexico, Peru, and Ecuador.
Name: Chef Ito
Location: Fountain Valley, California
Career: Raw Food Restaurant Chef
Certification(s): Associate Chef and Instructor
Personal: Compassion for all living things and creating special indulgences for times when nothing but something slightly decadent will do!
Quote: “We are all merely and wonderfully human, with no man-made borders to divide us.”
Bio: Living Light graduate Chef Ito is bringing gourmet raw food to Au Lac restaurant in Fountain Valley, California. He is a proponent of what he has dubbed "Humanese" cuisine. He coined to term Humanese because of his belief that we all have more in common than we realize. Chef Ito believes that to survive and thrive as humans, we must have compassion for everything on the planet: animals, plants, and above all each other. He creates delicious dishes to awaken the taste buds to the delights of plant based foods, and endeavors to provide cuisine that helps with the transition to vegetarian and living foods while helping his clients support and maintain their commitment to health. His creative menu options include a Chef's Hand Roll with nori, rice, sprouts, avocado, daikon, natto, onion and mustard, a Chimichurri Dip with "garlic bread," Pistachio bread with raisins, macadamia nuts and spices, a variety of "living soups" as well as delicious entrees and specialty dishes.
Name: Michelle Irwin
Personal: Loves being with her children, and feels that at Living Light she has found her new family and connected very deeply with people from all over the world.
Quote: "My husband's death helped me realize how to really live and cherish each moment. I didn't yet have the tools to create a new career, but my time at Living Light has brought me back to life and helped me recapture my joy in doing what I love to do."
Bio: Michelle Irwin has just published her first book, Sugar-Free Raw Desserts Sweetened with Stevia. Her journey to raw food has been both challenging and inspirational. She served in the military for nearly 5 years, and left with a medical discharge for an auto immune disease. Doctors did not have a remedy for her condition. In 1996 she didn't really know where to turn. She started doing some cleansing and research into natural healing. In 2003, she discovered raw food. She was intrigued, but not quite ready to take the plunge. In 2010, she and her husband attended Optimum Health Institute in California, and learned more about raw food. Michelle interned at a raw food restaurant, The Green Boheme in Sacramento, where she learned the beginnings of raw food preparation from the owner, Brooke Preston, a Living Light graduate. Brook had planted the seed, and Michelle wanted to learn more about raw food and healing. In May 2010, Michelle's husband was tragically killed in a bicycle accident. She quit her job to be with her children, Katie (now 8) and Luke (now 3), and found healing in the kitchen.