Christine Waltermyer, The Natural Kitchen Cooking School

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Christine Waltermyer is the founder and director of The Natural Kitchen Cooking School, offering Chef’s Training Programs, personal chef service and in-home cooking classes in Princeton, NJ and Manhattan. With over a decade of experience in the field of natural cooking, Christine is a masterful chef and teacher specializing in macrobiotic and vegan cuisines. Christine is a regularly featured chef on Ebru TV’s “Daily Connection.” Her personal chef clients include well known celebrities. Christine teaches “Food for Life” cooking classes for The Cancer Project. She has co-taught with legendary natural foods leader, Michio Kushi, at The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts. Christine currently leads dynamic cooking classes at Integral Yoga Institute in NYC, Dean’s Natural Food Market in Ocean, NJ; and Whole Foods Market in Princeton, NJ. Christine has been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, including Princeton’s U.S. 1 Magazine and The Asbury Park Press. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. It is Christine’s passion to empower others with the skills and knowledge to create radiant health. She will be a featured instructor at the 34th annual North American Vegetarian Society’s Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Caryn Hartglass: Hello I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me this afternoon, it’s May, it’s May 11th, 2011, and I’m sitting back having a lovely cup of organic jasmine green tea, and I’m going to enjoy this hour with you and our special guest today. We’re going to be talking about my favorite subject: healthy, delicious, yummy, vegan, plant-based food.

And we’re going to be speaking with Christine Waltermyer, she’s the founder and director of the Natural Kitchen Cooking School. With over 15 years of experience in the field of natural cooking, Christine is a masterful chef and teacher, specializing in macrobiotic, vegan and raw food cuisines. Christine recently published her first cookbook, Natural Vegan Kitchen. She has appeared on Ebru TV’s Daily Connections as a regularly featured chef. Her personal chef clients have included well-known celebrities, and Christine also teaches food-for-life cooking classes for The Cancer Project. She has co-taught with legendary natural foods leader Michio Kushi at the Kripolu Center for Yoga and Health in Lennox, Massachusetts. Christine has taught dynamic cooking classes at Integral Yoga Institute in New York City, Dean’s Natural Food Market in Ocean City, New Jersey, and Whole Foods Market in Princeton.

Christine has been the subject of numbers newspaper and magazine articles, including Princeton’s U.S. 1 Magazine and the Asbury Park Press. Christine has written for Veg News Magazine. She is a graduate of Millersville University, the Kushi Institute, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She is a certified wellness coach for the Coach Training Alliance, and she specializes in gluten-free diets for children with special needs. It is Christine’s passion to empower others with the skills and knowledge to create radiant health. Welcome, Christine!

Christine Waltermyer: Hello Caryn, thank you for that great introduction.

Caryn Hartglass: Ha, well, you did it, I just read it.

Christine Waltermyer: You read it well!

Caryn Hartglass: Thank you! And welcome to the show, I have not met you in person but it’s great to read about you, and great to read about why you do what you do, because I feel like we’re kindred spirits in some way, and I always enjoy talking to people with a passion about food, and who want to use food to improve people’s lives, create health, and do it in a yummy, delicious way. Yes, I think that’s what life is all about.

Christine Waltermyer: Yes I agree, and I think that what you’re doing is great as well.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so hats off to both of us!

Christine Waltermyer: Definitely!

Caryn Hartglass: I am pouring you a virtual cup of tea here.

Christine Waltermyer: Oh, that sounds great! That jasmine tea, oh my gosh.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I don’t like drinking alone. It’s very good, I was really in the mood for it. Ok, so, let’s get started here. You have a new cookbook, how exciting!

Christine Waltermyer: Yeah, thanks!

Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know if people realize how much work goes into preparing a cookbook, but I know it takes a lot of work. And, there’s a lot of things too, and one is just testing the recipes to make sure they’re right so that when people reproduce them they get what they are supposed to get.

Christine Waltermyer: Exactly.

Caryn Hartglass: I’ve been thinking a bit about the word “natural” lately for a number of reasons, and I just want to know, what does natural mean to you, because you use it in the name of your cookbook, The Natural Vegan Kitchen, and you use it in the Natural Kitchen Cooking School. I’m just going to say a little bit more, we have “natural” food stores and there’s a lot of food products that use the word natural, and it’s not a word that has been officially defined by our government for food products and regulation. What does it mean to you?

Christine Waltermyer: To me, I would say, as close to Mother Nature as possible, so, very whole and unprocessed or minimally processed, as if you had picked it right out of the garden.

Caryn Hartglass: I like that, that’s what it should mean. Amen. You have quite a list of places that you’ve studied at, in food preparation. How did you get started on this path?

Christine Waltermyer: You know, it started with my own health issues. Gosh, I was in my late teens, and I had had surgery twice for benign breast lumps. I had about twenty removed, and probably about that many grew right back, right under the scars, and my surgeon at the time, when I was 22 or so, said, “You know, you can’t keep coming out of surgery. You should really consider getting a double mastectomy.” And I was like, “I don’t think so.” So, that set me on this quest of natural healing and discovering all I could about what I could do through food and diet to heal myself. And, thankfully, I never had to have the surgery, and the rest is history.

Caryn Hartglass: Right, well, I am very happy to hear that. The interesting thing is that, human beings we, when we go outside of the healthful space that we’re supposed to be in, with a lifestyle that’s filled with good nutrition and healthy food and healthy life practices, when we go outside of that, that’s where our DNA kind of kicks in and we all kind of fall apart differently. The poor nutrition, poor lifestyle will affect each of us rather individually, and I think that’s what is challenging to the medical community and to society, because we see different things happening to different people and don’t realize that most of them are just symptoms of the same problem.

Christine Waltermyer: Yes

Caryn Hartglass: And so yours is rather unique, although there’s certainly a lot of breast cancer and other issues, but I think the root of all of these symptoms is the same—we’re not nourishing ourselves with natural, healthy food.

Christine Waltermyer: Right!

Caryn Hartglass: Ok, so who were some of the inspirations for you when you did your research?

Christine Waltermyer: Oh gosh, I have to really thank Michio Kushi. Neal Barnard has been fabulous. Recently more the work of Joel Fuhrman, I really like his approach.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah he’s one of my favorites.

Christine Waltermyer: Yeah, right? So, yeah, I would say those three really stand out. Of course, Christina Pirello is such a role model of a vivacious cooking teacher, and with her shows. Rory Freedman, of course is the, you know, I can’t even name all my heroes. Robin Robertson, I could keep going.

Caryn Hartglass: So you seem to have been influenced a lot by the macrobiotic community?

Christine Waltermyer: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Is it just because you fell into that, or was there something that resounded with that sort of diet?

Christine Waltermyer: Right, I have to admit I started out as a junk food vegetarian, so I was like, oh Hydrox cookies, they’re vegan, great! So when I had my first meal at the Kushi Institute of brown rice, steamed kale, and beans, it was like this life changing experience! I was sitting there chewing and chewing, talking to cancer survivors who had healed themselves just by eating whole natural foods, and I thought, “This is it, this is really it.”

Caryn Hartglass: The amazing thing is that, from whatever angle you come from, a raw food diet or macrobiotic diet, the bottom line is plant foods are the winner.

Christine Waltermyer: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: And there are so many different cuisines now that, this is happy eating, this is beautiful eating, this is satisfying eating, and there are so many different recipes, and so many different vegan cookbooks coming out.

Christine Waltermyer: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, what sets yours apart from all the others that are out there?

Christine Waltermyer: I would say the focus on, like you said, the word natural, and whole and unprocessed, because I don’t use white sugar, no white flour, I really like to have a high integrity with my ingredients, so, I would say that’s something that I believe.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, what I like about it, is these are, I think they are relatively simple recipes, and all on the healthy slant, but creative enough or the right blend of ingredients so that these are really satisfying, tasty dishes.

Christine Waltermyer: Great, thanks for saying that!

Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah, I definitely think so, and there’s some really nice pictures. There’s one recipe in here that’s kind of decadent for me, but good to have from time to time, and that’s the zucchini rice patties. The ingredients are pretty simple and healthy, but it is, they are fried, and I don’t tend to use much oil, but I could use this recipe from time to time for, some sort of, I’m trying to think of what occasion would be best, but they sort of look like crab cakes.

Christine Waltermyer: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: And really, really fun.

Christine Waltermyer: Yes, and alternatively you can actually bake them. You could maybe just very lightly spray them with a mist of spray oil if you wanted to, and just bake them instead.

Caryn Hartglass: Right, well that’s the amazing thing, what I like about it is, there’s a season where zucchini is everywhere, and for those who get to garden, and they are growing zucchini, there’s this period where they’re just overwhelmed, zucchinis are becoming monsters and you just don’t know what to do with them. They make zucchini bread, and ok, enough already with the zucchini, but this is a great recipe that is a good use for zucchini that I haven’t personally done myself. I really like in this recipe you grate the zucchini, and I haven’t seen zucchini, I’ve done it, and I like what happens to zucchini when its grated, but I don’t see that really ever in restaurants or anywhere. So here’s to grated zucchini! What’s your favorite in this book?

Christine Waltermyer: It changes! Gosh, if I had to pick a favorite, I definitely have a sweet tooth, so I love like the blueberry pear fluff. It’s a nice, light satisfying dessert, it’s really good to use the natural sweetness of the fruit, and yet it gives you that little cozy satisfaction of having something, a treat at the end of the meal.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Now you have some classic ingredients from the macrobiotic kitchen, like the brown rice syrup and the kuzu starch. I know what kuzu starch is, I may have purchased it from time to time, but I’m not that familiar with it. Is it like other starches, like corn starch and potato starch?

Christine Waltermyer: Exactly, except it’s a little more chunky. It almost looks like little broken up pieces of chalk, so you definitely have to dilute it in the cold water just like other starches, and then add it to your warm, whatever you’re making, a gravy or sauce.

Caryn Hartglass: Great. So tell me, you started the kitchen school, the Natural Kitchen Vegan Kitchen, no, the Natural Kitchen Cooking School. That was pretty ambitious. And this is in New Jersey?

Christine Waltermyer: We have classes in New Jersey, two programs in New Jersey, and then one in Manhattan.

Caryn Hartglass: Excellent. And what do people learn while they go through this school?

Christine Waltermyer: It’s an eight month program. It meets one weekend a month for eight months, and we have different themes each weekend, so we have a grain weekend, we have bean weekend, vegetables, we teach some raw foods, some of the macrobiotic theory of course. We have great guest teachers like Alex Jameson, Fran Costigan, and again Judy Baggs every weekend, so it’s a really comprehensive program as far as plant-based cooking.

Caryn Hartglass: And eight months, that’s a good commitment.

Christine Waltermyer: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: So I imagine you get people that have a wide range of skills, from beginners to people that have a bit of knowledge about food preparation.

Christine Waltermyer: You’re exactly right, yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Which can make it interesting, when they’re all mixed together in a classroom.

Christine Waltermyer: Right, right. Everything they share, and that you see going on, we have one of our graduates is now teaching at the French Culinary Institute, and other folks just happy to be cooking healthier meals for themselves or their family.

Caryn Hartglass: And is it all vegan?

Christine Waltermyer: It is all vegan, 100%.

Caryn Hartglass: Does anybody ever have any challenges with that when they come to the school, or they know what they’re getting into?

Christine Waltermyer: They know what they’re getting into, and I’d say maybe, probably, not even half of our students are vegan, the other half… But it’s amazing over time, I think people sometimes come in, like we had someone once who was a body builder and she said, “I eat meat, I just want to announce that.” Then years later she suddenly became vegan, and we don’t push it, we present the beauty of the food and the cooking, and why we do it, the connection with the environment, and then if you want to make that jump, it’s great.

Caryn Hartglass: What’s interesting to me I find some people are really naturals in the kitchen, and it doesn’t matter what cuisine they’re familiar with, but, they just know what to do with food, and then other people are really out of place, and are really lost. Do you see that in your school, where, you know there are some that really take to preparing and others don’t have that, I don’t know what to call it, imagination or? It’s rough, because when somebody gets the idea about transitioning to a healthier diet and including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds in their diet, some people just know what to do. They are used to having spaghetti and meatballs, they leave out the meatballs, and they might add some vegetables, but other people it’s just like a deer in the headlights or something where, What? What do I do now? I don’t know how, how do I not eat meat? How do I not eat cheese? What is there to eat? It’s just amazing the block.

Christine Waltermyer: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: Now you also do some, do you do some coaching?

Christine Waltermyer: I do, yes, I do wellness coaching as well.

Caryn Hartglass: And is it related to food?

Christine Waltermyer: Yes, yes absolutely, I basically call myself the food coach, so.

Caryn Hartglass: Ok, so I imagine you meet people like this, where they just don’t have an idea of where to begin?

Christine Waltermyer: Yes, and in the chef training program we address that by introducing the five tastes, and we’ll often taste test something and say “Now, what does this need?” And people will sort of jump in and say, “Oh it needs more sour, let’s add a little brown rice vinegar,” or it needs more sweet or salty, so we help to develop that intuition, and with my coaching I do do that as well, making suggestions and drawing forth on their wisdom and making suggestions, so, it’s a process, but it really is magical how that can be developed.

Caryn Hartglass: Now what would you like to see happen with this new cookbook that you just put out?

Christine Waltermyer: Well, I’m just so excited that it’s being reviewed on various blogs, and so far, everyone’s just giving it really great reviews, and I guess I’d just like to see it affect more and more people in a positive way and help them to eat a healthy, balanced, vegan diet.

Caryn Hartglass: That sounds pretty good to me. Ok, let’s see, any other things that you might want to discuss while we’re here?

Christine Waltermyer: Oh gosh, we covered a lot, this is just great, I am enjoying my cup of tea…

Caryn Hartglass: Oh you do? What do you have?

Christine Waltermyer: I’m just teasing, you offered me a virtual cup of tea earlier, so.

Caryn Hartglass: Right, ok. There’s always time for tea.

Christine Waltermyer: That’s right.

Caryn Hartglass: Let’s see, oh, you had an opportunity to do some work with The Cancer Project?

Christine Waltermyer: Yes

Caryn Hartglass: With the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine? Can you talk a little about that? I think that’s such a great program.

Christine Waltermyer: It is. I really, I just love working with the cancer project, and Neal Barnard, and the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine. They have, if you go to cancerproject.org, they have an amazing selection of recipes on their website and great resources. What they do is they have about 60 instructors all over the country, and I’m one of them, and we teach a 4, 6, or 8 week program helping people who are either dealing with cancer, or who want to prevent cancer, to learn meals that can support their immune system, and they get to see a cookbook throughout the course. It’s just a great program.

Caryn Hartglass: I really would like to see something like that just explode, either with PCRM, or, and hospitals should provide something like that for every person that comes in with cancer.

Christine Waltermyer: Absolutely.

Caryn Hartglass: I had my own experience with ovarian cancer, it was quite a scary time. It didn’t make sense that I got it, but I did, and I just decided to use everything I knew to get over to the other side and get well, and I realize that even though I thought I was a healthy vegan, I think that ultimately saved my life to begin with, but I had to take my diet up a few notches, and I’ve just been cramming greens ever since. Green juice and green foods, and you know, some of us need to do a little more than others.

Christine Waltermyer: Yes that’s true, good for you.

Caryn Hartglass: That information doesn’t get out there enough. I see so many women, in particular, who are educated, and have the means, and they think they’re doing things that are healthy, they’re eating their yogurt every day, and they really don’t realize what they really need to do, and then they get breast cancer or something else, and it’s, I’ve heard so many numbers, you probably have heard some of them too, the conservative ones are that 60% of all cancers could be prevented with diet. And it’s probably more.

Christine Waltermyer: Yeah, you think it would be front page news that we can take charge and do something about it, and I think it is getting out there gradually.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, I’m not familiar with Ebru TV’s Daily Connections. Is that on television, is that on the internet?

Christine Waltermyer: They are actually available on the internet at this point. That was something that I did a few years ago, with Ebru TV, and yeah, that was a lot of fun. I loved working with them, and we did quite a few episodes.

Caryn Hartglass: Is there any way that we can access that, or is that something from some time ago? I always like to watch food shows on the internet.

Christine Waltermyer: I know, me too! Actually, we do have a link on our website, naturalkitchenschool.com, there’s a section, I believe it’s under Meet the Director, and Watch Christine on TV, and there’s a link.

Caryn Hartglass: Ok great, well definitely I’m glad you mentioned that, because I seem to have forgot to, that your website is again, what is again?

Christine Waltermyer: Oh sorry, naturalkitchenschool.com.

Caryn Hartglass: Naturalkitchenschool.com. Great. If you’re interested in the cookbook, it’s called the Natural Vegan Kitchen:Recipes from the Natural Kitchen Cooking School. I think that it’s a great book for anyone who is transitioning to a healthier diet because there’s a lot of very interesting, but easy, well-balanced, range of recipes in here, from, like I like to say, soup to dessert.

Christine Waltermyer: Yeah! Well, thank you very much!

Caryn Hartglass: Thank you! I wish you all the best and I just hope you help many, many people that are open and receptive to learning about a healthy, plant-based diet.

Christine Waltermyer: I hope so too, that would make me so happy.

Caryn Hartglass: And it will make them happy! That’s the point!

Christine Waltermyer: Yes!

Caryn Hartglass: Oh well. But they will only know when they try it.

Christine Waltermyer: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Ok, here’s to delicious food! Thank you Christine Waltermyer for joining us today on It’s All About Food.

Christine Waltermyer: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: Have a great day. All right, I think we’ll take a quick little break, and I’ll be right back.

Transcribed by Sarah Gumz, 1/22/2014

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