Before I start, really look at this beautiful photo of myself. I know it’s nothing special in terms of lighting or composition, and usually I don’t consider myself photogenic at all, but nevertheless, I adore this photo because it’s captured a certain feeling on my face.
I felt alive, inspired, at home, and totally freaking pumped to be doing something that made my heart sing. And I think it shows in this photo. My shoulders are relaxed, face light, eyes twinkly. Feeling like a total babe, far from the stressed and self conscious version of myself months prior.
This was nearly four years ago, it marked the start of my new journey. I frequently get asked about my training in raw foods and since we’re coming up to the anniversary of my time there, I thought it appropriate to finally dig out these old photos and journal entries and share a bit about it.
Why the Raw Foods Training?
Some background. I worked as an Art Director in various large advertising agencies in both Australia and New Zealand. I wasn’t well toward the end of it – my goodness – so super stressed, highly strung, caffeinated and burnt out (fellow ‘Mad Men’ – can you relate?!). I eventually came to the realisation that my job simply wasn’t fulfilling me, and in fact was contributing to me feeling this way. I have to admit, the Universe got in there (always one step ahead) and gave me one good cosmic shove in the right direction, under the guise of a redundancy. It was certainly a blessing, a huge relief. So, with money in my pocket and ideas in my head I began to plan my next move.
Two days later, fuelled entirely by both impulse and intuition, I booked a six week solo trip to Bali, part of which was to be spent completing a Living Foods Chef Certification. Raw foods had been calling my name for a long while, but I’d never had the chance to explore it. It seemed like the perfect thing to delve into in order to mark the start of a fresh new journey in health and healing.
Giddy with excitement (it’s kind of a reckless thing to do – spend your lump savings on a naked seed of an idea), I bought a journal and started drawing the first iteration of my Ascension Kitchen logo – bold and feminine typeface surrounded by a golden orb. I’d decided I needed a blog (well, my gut feeling did anyway, my brain was yet to catch up with the whole ‘why’ of it all), I picked out a name and an energy (the word ‘Ascension’ has a unique energetic signature to it don’t you think? It means ‘the act of rising’), bought a camera, and packed my bags ready to go.
I was off on a new adventure and had no idea where it would take me, other than away from the stuffy paralysis of doing the same thing day-in day-out.
Before I continue, I also want to add, that this was the first of a string of fabulously beneficial intuition-led decisions from which I’ve never looked back. Even though there have been some hairy moments. In fact, especially because there have been some hairy moments!
Sometimes in life its good to do things on a whim, and to just have total trust and surrender. It’s like the Fool in the tarot deck. Stepping off the cliff face without a net to catch him, leaving the past behind.
“At this moment the Fool has the support of the Universe to make this jump into the unknown. Adventures await him in the river of life.”
The beauty of the Fool is that he can let go of all that he ‘knows’ – and let each new experience greet him in the present with renewed awe.
Living Food Chef Certification Course
The course I took part in was a one month intensive hosted by Daniel Aaron of the famed yoga studio Radiantly Alive in Bali’s beautifully spirited Ubud.
It was run simultaneous to a Yoga Teacher Training and as such, the course was very hands-on, our daily efforts in the kitchen catering to a tribe of hungry yogis.
Raw foods are simply foods in their most natural state. The teacher’s themselves were certainly testament as to how vital a living foods diet can make you feel (and look). Happy, energised, relaxed, charged, vibrant, light, fizzing… they’re just a few words that spring to mind when I think about the raw foodists I know. Incidentally, raw foodists have also been some of the most deeply spiritual people I have met and shared conversations with.
Our Living Foods Teachers were the dynamic duo, Sayuri Tanaka and Ben Richards. I want to tell you a bit about how amazing they each were, because I know that they have both now moved on from Radiantly Alive and have established their own teacher trainings, cafés and retreat centres.
[bctt tweet="Curious about raw, living foods? Take a peak into a Raw Chef Training here."]
Firstly, Sayuri was an absolute alchemist in the kitchen. She had an incredible talent for combining flavours to create something so unexpected and delicious. Sayuri is a trained raw, vegan and macrobiotic chef and has travelled the world teaching and hosting retreats. She is well versed in plant-based nutrition and previously studied at the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy. She has published several cookbooks, one of which is by far the grubbiest and well-thumbed in my bookcase.
Aside from her culinary genius, she was also the sweetest, calm and gentlest person to work with in the kitchen.
Ben’s passion was undoubtedly with his Chinese tonic herbs. He took the raw and living foods nutrition lectures and introduced us to the world of superfoods. He was also a bit of a fermentation master and throughout the month had rows of tropical flavoured kefir drinks bubbling away. Ben had the best stories, I loved sitting in the van on road trips listening to his musings on life, spirituality and the mysteries of the universe. I also have to mention his talent in the healing arts. As a Holographic Kinetic practitioner, he did sessions with many of the students to help get to the core of emotional blockages that were ultimately manifesting themselves at the physical level. And lastly – he was a raw-chocolate-making guru. Even if he did put some funky ingredients in there – chocolate and dried mushrooms anyone?
So what did we learn? Most of the time was hands-on in the kitchen, recreating recipes, experimenting with flavours, and of course, making dinner for hungry yoginis. We made a whole range of fabulous dishes, from staples such as nut milks, butters and cheeses, to superfood smoothies and tonics, decadent desserts, salads with creative dressings, soups, wraps, granolas, dehydrated goods – the works really. The evening meals were themed, allowing us to explore the living foods interpretation of global cuisines. We had a Mexican night, an all American burger night, Thai, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Caribbean, Italian, Japanese and of course, Indonesian. Learning the art of flavour combining was central to recreating these ethnic dishes.
Some of the dishes we made: adaptogen tea, jackfruit smoothies, spirulina gomashio, mango papaya wraps, garlic bread with bruschetta, Greek tzatziki, Swiss cheese, candied walnuts, eggplant 'bacon', coconut 'sashimi', veggie burgers, rosemary-garlic mashed 'potatoes', green tea ice cream, Ayurveda cookies, chocolate cupcakes with lemon lime icing, cinnamon swirled buns... and a whole lot of raw chocolates!
We also covered kitchen essentials such as food safety, kitchen tools and knife skills. We learnt how to open a coconut. Like a boss. And how to sprout nearly anything. We got our ferment on and made probiotic rich kefirs and cultured yoghurts.
We had weekly lectures on raw and plant based nutrition, covering topics such as food combining, acid and alkaline, macro and micro nutrients, phytonutrients and getting adequate protein.
We covered all the basics involved in setting up a raw foods business or café. Learn the art of raw foods demonstrations, including public speaking tips. There were also some great day trips planned for us. The most memorable was a trip to an organic cacao farm. We picked fresh cacao pods from the trees and munched on raw, fleshy white-purple cacao beans. We toured the Ubud markets and had a raw picnic at the beach. We also had the opportunity to join in on some of the morning Yoga sessions. All pretty magical experiences really.
Of all the incredible moments experienced, the one I revelled in the most was the intimate talk we had with Ethnobotanist Dale Millard. He inducted us into the world of mushrooms, and their intelligence just blows me away - did you know they can be trained to digest and clean up pollution caused by industry? They absorb radiation and heavy metals - clearing them from the environment. We discussed the therapeutic, immune and tonic effects of Reishi, and learnt about the incredible (endangered) Cordyceps, one of the superstars of Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine, revered for its immune and longevity enhancing properties. It is actually a parasitic mushroom that grows on the head of insects such as caterpillars, moths or ants, eventually taking over its nervous system, reprogramming it. In absolute awe of Nature.
Was it all roses?
In fairness of a transparent review, no it wasn’t. My only real critique of the programme was that the apprenticeship nature of it felt quite intense for me personally. There are many different ways you can work with raw and living foods, catering is simply one aspect of that. I respect that many are drawn to working in this area, however I knew from the start that I would be working with raw foods in a different way. As it transpired, this has been more in the form of blogging, recipe development, recipe app creation, talks, ‘cooking’ demonstrations and hosting intimate workshops. So to summarise, the experience was fantastic but all at once challenging.
The final banquet
The last part of our training involved preparing a banquet of food fit to feed all 50 of the retreat guests, mostly made up of the yoga teacher training students. This was followed up with a demonstration the next day on how we prepared one of the dishes.
Luckily we did this in pairs because it was quite an undertaking. Fortunately for me, I prepared my menu with another sweet babe who also had a sensitive wee stomach, so we opted for a menu free from harsh spices and difficult to digest ingredients such as nuts and seeds. We settled on a light ‘Indian Summer Nights’ theme. And what an outrageously delicious feast we prepared:
Indian Summer Nights Raw Banquet
Raw • Vegan • Organic • Nut free
Organic mixed greens salad
Carrot and raisin salad with coconut, balsamic and cumin dressing and sticky desiccated curried coconut flakes (a salad sprinkle)
Sun and Moon Soup* A two-toned soup bowl. Half spiced pumpkin and carrot, half coriander, avocado and zucchini, swirled together like yin and yang.
Three Little Indian Wontons –wonton wrappers (coconut flesh spiked with fresh beetroot, spinach or carrot) filled with either a red curry, green curry, or spiced jicama rice, each with a unique sauce, tied together with a strand of fresh lemongrass.
*Sun and Moon is a nod to Yoga, the origin of the word meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ – hence the coming together of the sun and moon, the yin and yang.
Mango and Buckwheat Crepes with fluffy cacao cream filling, and freshly sliced mango marinated in dates, ginger, clove and star anise.
Espresso shooter with steamed cashew milk, dusted with cinnamon
The photos honestly just don’t do it justice, I was only just starting to learn my way around the camera at that point. Also - there were more dishes served on the evening - this was a partial menu I had written and saved on my ipad at the time - I can't quite remember what else we had, but it may have been a jicama curried rice, some salsas and sauces. Dessert also always included a selection of our hand made chocolates for that day, and tropical fruits.
So that my friends, is just a small taster of the wild experience I had in Bali. I have studied many things since leaving my first career, and this course, although one of the smaller ones, has opened many doors and helped shape the future for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed my recollection and above all else encourage you to jump without a net sometimes – even just once – see where it will take you!
Finally, immense gratitude to those who held the space for us and taught us all these amazing things. Daniel, Sayuri and Ben, thank you, thank you.
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