Living Light graduate, Nina Curtis, is a chef and culinary wellness consultant. She recently created 'herstory' on International Women's Day by spearheading a team of international women chefs who devised a sumptuous plant-based dinner for the esteemed James Beard Foundation. We caught up with Nina recently to ask her a few questions about her food journey:
LLCI: What was your first experience in the kitchen?
I started cooking with my mom when I was eight years old, as I was the eldest of four. My mother was before her time with 'clean' cooking, she made everything from scratch, had her own garden and cooked a lot of plant-based foods, although not vegan at the time, I loved fruits and vegetables.
What drew you to plant-based/ raw food cuisine?
I was competing in natural body building and my body stopped wanting animal protein??? I was old school in my thoughts and believed that I needed animal protein to build strong muscles. I thought to myself, 'I am going to have to retire from competition,' but I was not ready to give up! I started researching and studying about other sources of protein and learned through first hand experience, and my body as my 'lab', that plant based proteins actually provided much more absorb-able and bio-available protein for my body to thrive on. There was no turning back and the rest is herstory! My performance excelled, my recovery time was faster and I felt great.
When you attended Living Light, what did you enjoy about the school?
In the beginning I attended Living Light to gain certification in the Science of Raw Food Nutrition. I obtained a strong scientific background in raw plant-based foods, which is the foundation for all food science. During the program I quickly realized that I could maximize my efforts and expand my vision by incorporating the science of raw plant-based foods with food preparation and I signed up for the full culinary program.
Everyday was like being in a 'vegan candy' store. Preparing delicious, gourmet, raw vegan food was the highlight for me and eating the food was the icing on the cake. Our instructors were professional, wildly-experienced and they engaged with all of the students to ensure our success during the program.
Who are the culinary inspirations in your life right now?
My mom and dad remain my culinary inspirations as I continue to deconstruct their recipes to vegan fare. My mom makes this wild "Wacky Cake," think German Chocolate cake, with carob, that is so delicious! I am 'veganizing' it and excited to serve it up! My mentor, Vinnette Thompson, continues to inspire and challenge me to be better than my best.
How do you feel attitudes toward raw and vegan foods have changed in the past 5 years?
Plant-based food has been dubbed the 'mega trend' of 2018. I think that raw vegan and vegan cooked food continues to gain popularity with the masses and that's powerful. Plant-based food is more accessible, there are quality products on the shelves, people are becoming more compassionate about the well-being of sentient beings and realizing that vegan food can be really delicious. These are all great signs, in my opinion, for vegan cuisine and food items to continue to gain traction and sustainability.