Dan Ladermann and Cherie Soria, Living Light Culinary Institute
Raw food revolutionary, Cherie Soria, is the founder and director of Living Light Culinary Institute, and has been teaching the art of gourmet raw foods to individuals, chefs, and instructors for more than 20 years and vegetarian culinary arts for 40 years. Cherie has personally trained many of the world’s top raw food chefs and instructors and is often referred to as the Mother of Gourmet Raw Vegan Cuisine. She is the author of four books, including Raw Food Revolution Diet and Raw Food for Dummies. Cherie has been a popular speaker at many international health events for the past 20 years and at over 66 years young, she is a vibrant, energetic and inspiring example of the raw food lifestyle.
Dan Ladermann was a pioneer in the internet revolution in the late 70’s and has been pioneering the raw food revolution and its impact on health for the past 18 years. He is coauthor Raw Food for Dummies and co-director of Living Light International along with his wife Cherie Soria. Dan is also president of the Institute for Vibrant Living, a non-profit organization dedicated to global education about raw organic plant-strong foods and their role in health and vitality and a certified Hippocrates Health Educator.
Together, Dan and Cherie have built a family of award winning businesses united in their commitment to sharing the benefits of an organic, sustainable, raw food lifestyle with people around the world. This includes the prestigious Living Light Culinary Institute, the Living Light Café, Living Light Marketplace and the Eco-friendly Living Light Inn.
nutrition starts being killed off from our food. So, we use tools like dehydrators to create crispy, crunchy snacks that aren’t our mainstay, our mainstay is, as you talked about initially, greens. Greens are really a wonderful thing but the key thing is colors of the rainbow, all the different colors of our vegetables. There’s such a wide variety of delicious fruits and vegetables out there. There’s such a wide variety of colors because every color contains different phytonutrients. And so by getting a spectrum of colors, you’re going to get a spectrum of health and then the body knows how to take from those building blocks what it really needs at any given moment to create optimal health in our bodies.
Cherie Soria: And Caryn, we’re as Dan said, we’re flexible, meaning that we know that it’s not just what you eat but it’s also what you don’t eat. And we also know that as long as you’re eating a high raw diet and the cooked foods you’re eating are good choices, and the raw foods you’re eating are good choices as well because there are raw foods that aren’t as health-promoting as some cooked foods, for example you wouldn’t want to eat cashew cheesecake every day even if it is raw, when steamed kale is actually better for you to eat on a daily basis. So, of course, we know how to prepare kale in such a way that it tastes cooked and looks cooked and you can use it in so many recipes so that you don’t even know there’s kale. Nevertheless, choosing the right foods to cook and certain foods you don’t want to cook because you don’t want to kill say the vitamin C or certain phytonutrients that have a low heat threshold, and then cooking at the proper temperature, not cooking fats and especially using oils, even grilling, baking and roasting is cooking at high temperatures so you can be creating dangerous chemicals, when you’re cooking especially starches at high temperatures. So, we’re not, even though at Living Light Culinary Institute we only teach how to make raw food because so many people know how to cook, they don’t know how to make delicious raw food. We don’t advocate that people have to be on an all 100 percent raw food diet in order to experience the benefits. But we do advocate they make good healthy choices whether they’re raw or cooked.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m thinking it’s like a metaphor, but I got a tour of a raw food restaurant that I don’t think exists anymore but it was up in Larkspur, California, Roxanne’s. Maybe you remember it.
Cherie Soria: Oh, she was a graduate of our school!
Caryn Hartglass: There you go! Well I got a tour of that restaurant on the inside and one of the things that amazed me, because I’ve seen a lot of different restaurants, is this place was spotless. Raw food cuisine is not only clean for us inside but it’s clean outside. You’re not frying, frying is filthy; it just destroys your kitchen – the walls, everywhere just gets this, it vaporizes and it coats everything and the dishes are harder to clean when you cook. Raw is just so obviously clean to that degree.
Cherie Soria: Yeah, it’s true. One of the favorite things when I stopped cooking, for me, was no more scrubbing dirty, greasy pots and pans and my walls weren’t greasy anymore and I love that.
Dan Ladermann: And you’ve got a nice clean kitchen, you end up with no cross-contamination with anything. Our kitchen at our school is cool; it’s not hot, it’s not noisy with big hoods and exhaust fans, and all that stuff that makes it good for the people to work in and because it’s plant based it’s also good for the animals.
Cherie Soria: In fact the food handling inspectors for our county here don’t even bother coming up to our commercial kitchens because –
Caryn Hartglass: I was going to ask you about what’s going on or what went on when you got your commercial kitchen certified because the regulations are mostly geared towards all kinds of nightmares that can happen with animal products and cooked food.
Dan Ladermann: We worked very closely with our environmental agency as we were building our school and we billed it out and we passed our first inspection, we worked with them to – the nice thing with no cooked oil is we didn’t need a grease trap, we didn’t have any broilers so we didn’t need any hoods, we did need good sanitation systems so we ended up with high temperature dishwashers so that we didn’t have to use dangerous chemicals and we got approval to use hydrogen peroxide as our sanitizing agent, so no bleach in our facilities.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good.
Dan Ladermann: We’re all eco-friendly. We have won multiple awards at Living Light for being an eco-conscious business both from our county and Best of Raw, we won Eco-Raw Business of the Year last year, in 2014 we won our eco-friendly initiatives that we did company-wide to encourage all of our staff both at work and in their personal lives to continue to do things for the environment.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know if you’ve heard this and I doubt there are any studies on it but I’ve heard from people that have been involved in plumbing, that the raw foodists seem to have the best plumbing, not in their own bodies, I’m talking about physical piping and what’s going out into the waste.
Cherie Soria: Well that makes sense and I do agree that its both your physical plumbing in your building as well as your plumbing in your body – it works both ways!
Caryn Hartglass: (Laughs) That’s right!
Dan Ladermann: That stuff that clogs your pipes clogs both internal and external.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, ok, so what goes on at Living Light Culinary Institute?
Cherie Soria: Well, we have people who come from 60 different countries, we’re the only licensed culinary school as far as we know in the world but certainly in California and the rest of the states, we’re the only licensed culinary school that is strictly raw vegan. We had to jump through a lot of hoops but, we started the school 16 years ago and we believe in constant and never-ending improvements. So we have managed to pass all of the requirements for the state of California and we do attract people as I said, from 60 different countries. We have 40 employees – we have, besides the culinary school, which by the way offers classes not only for professional chefs but also for home chefs, anybody who wants to learn how to make healthier meals for themselves and their families – we have many programs for them. You can come for as little as a weekend or for as long as 3 months, depending on what your interests are. We have, besides our culinary program, we have a nutritional science program that’s taught by Drs. Rick and Karen Dina who are our foremost authorities on nutrition, in particular the raw food diet and they are both chiropractors with this as their specialty. We have an inn, an eco-friendly inn where we house our students. It’s a short walk to the school so our students don’t need to have a car when they come. It’s a beautiful area that we have here on the Mendocino Coast. We also have in our complex a café, and we also have a culinary store for anything you need for a raw food kitchen. So we really house four businesses within the Living Light Institute umbrella – the school being the primary business; all the other businesses are there to support our students.
Caryn Hartglass: So we’ve got a long way to go before we’re mainstream but the terms “vegan” and “raw” are definitely out there. More people know about them, they’re talking about them, there are all kinds of references to them in books and articles and TV shows and movies, which is a great thing. More people are going for green smoothies, blended salads, what foods today are the people most surprised with that they learn about when they come to your school?
Cherie Soria: Well, when they come to the school they usually know about juicing and blending; they don’t know necessarily, that you can have amazing raw cheese, that you can have incredible desserts far and beyond what cooked food desserts are really. Some of the favorite comfort foods that people are used to like burgers and enchiladas and tacos and tamales and pretty much everything besides fried chicken and prime rib, we can replicate because there are so many new products that are out, new techniques. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’m constantly, constantly learning how to create different textures and new flavors and utilizing different kinds of spices and combinations of flavors and so forth, and technique, really good solid culinary technique. The cuisine, as you say, has just changed so much. It’s so far beyond roots and shoots and salads and smoothies. People, even who are interested in raw food already and many of them have already been exploring this as a diet, who come to our school, are really amazed at how delicious this cuisine is and how much contrast and satisfaction it offers.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, now I know that there are all kinds of vegan diets. There are really healthy ones and then there are the cook and French fried ones, which are not so healthy. Are there raw diets that may not be so healthy?
Dan Ladermann: Well clearly as Cheri talked about, are things like dessert, cheesecake, things that are really heavy in nuts and seeds can be overdone. We think of desserts as recreational and not part of a food group. So if you’re having, once again back to the variety, if you’re having a variety in your diet, if you’re having a strong foundation of greens in many different ways, whether they’re in smoothies, juicing, and still getting all the colors of the rainbow, you’re going to have a healthier diet. It’s much more challenging to be a junk food raw foodist than it is to be a junk food vegan. We’ve traveled all over the world this last year promoting our book Raw Food for Dummies which I like to call “Food for Smart, Busy People” and we went to some of the big vegan conferences in Chicago and Toronto and most of the food they served we couldn’t eat because we wouldn’t consider it food because it was a lot of deep-fried and –
Caryn Hartglass: Vegan donuts, look out!
Dan Ladermann: And that stuff is not healthy and that’s why when Cheri talked, we talk about it doesn’t have to be all raw but the choices you make in your cooked food have to be good choices. Gluten-free is an important thing. One of the nice things on a raw diet is pretty much automatically you’re already on gluten-free, with a few exceptions. It’s very easy to be gluten-free and a lot of people have gluten challenges. When you look at the standard vegan diet, gluten is the core of a lot of the fillers, with wheat and processed look-alike meats and things that just aren’t that healthy. And yet, a vegan diet is healthy, but what raw food really does is take it to an extreme level of health that’s just amazing what happens when people eat a variety of healthy raw foods.
Cherie Soria: And the thing about gluten is it’s not really just people who know they’re gluten intolerant, or we think of gluten intolerance. But really it’s not good for any of us. It’s an inflammatory. Even animals – our dog not long ago was having health problems and we went along with what the vet told us to do. We gave him medication and it just didn’t seem to be helping. I finally thought, I’m just going to take him off of his vegan kibble. He was on a vegan kibble. Even though I was also giving him a lot of raw vegetables, and super foods and everything, and as soon as I took him off the kibble, within two days his symptoms disappeared.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow!
Cherie Soria: We see that so much with people. So, with as Dan said, with the raw food diet it’s pretty much gluten free anyway unless you have something like a sprouted kamut scone or something of that nature. At Living Light we just don’t prepare anything that has gluten in it – we’re completely gluten free. That way people – they may be symptomatic and they may not know what’s causing their problems. When they go gluten free, all of a sudden their joints aren’t stiff anymore, their skin improves, there’s just so many things that they had no idea, they thought maybe they were getting older, or that this is normal.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, a lot of people think that. They think its normal and there’s nothing they can do, which is really a sad thing.
Dan Ladermann: Another key for us is organic.
Cherie Soria: Yeah.
Dan Ladermann: And that’s true for a lot of raw foodists. They’re very high on the concept of organic which means GMO free because just like gluten, the side effects you get from eating GMOd food are numerous and we don’t even know what it’s going to do in the long run. So, organic is just best for us and best for the farmers and the environment.
Caryn Hartglass: You mention organic, I’m reading about how scary the organic certification label with the USDA may become, that they may be allowing some things that we don’t want to touch our organic food.
Dan Ladermann: I am always, I’m on a number of email lists and am always writing to/being active with congressmen and the USDA and it’s important for all of us to be aware that there’s a lot of pressures from big agriculture and the farming community, and the pharmaceuticals, to limit how strong the organic certifications are and to limit our right to know for genetically modified foods. So I encourage everyone to follow that and be proactive – if you get a request to sign a petition to stop GMOd salmon, to stop GMOd beef, what they’re trying to do is make it so the state doesn’t have the right to require GMO labeling. There’s just a lot of pressure to water that all down so be proactive.
Cherie Soria: And a lot of people seem to think that if they go on a healthier diet, especially a raw food, raw vegan diet that they also have to go organic. For some reason they’re thinking if they don’t eat raw food, and they cook their food, that they can still buy food that is not organic, that is conventionally grown because it’ll go away when it’s cooked, and that is so not true at all. You want to be organic no matter what you’re eating. And as Dan said, get involved; let your voice be heard. If you join some of these different organizations they make it easy for you, they write the letter for you and all you have to do is click on it and the letters go out to your congressmen. All you have to do is put in your information once and it just goes through so you can really let your voice be heard. We need to stand up to this.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what’s going on with our food and I’m so glad you brought that up because no, you can’t remove a lot of toxic residues by heating, in fact heating often makes things more concentrated, it makes it worse. People feel the same way about water – I’m really big about distilling water from the tap. I think it’s great that we have tap water and that we should always have access to water, but once it’s at your delivery point you need to do some extra cleaning, and boiling water doesn’t take care of a lot of the problems that are in our tap water. We have to remove it with good filtration.
Cherie Soria: That’s right. When people say that we have safe water in our community, they’re saying ‘safe’ as in it doesn’t have any harmful bacteria but one of the problems is that it’s killing off the bad bacteria, and it’s killing off the good bacteria at the same time. Irrespective of all of the chemical residues that you’re also taking into your body, you’re killing your natural friendly flora that keeps your digestive tract healthy. That’s one of the things about the raw food diet also, is we really encourage a high probiotic food like sauerkraut or the amazing, delicious cheeses that I invented 20 years ago and are so popular today that have actually been fermented cheeses made from nuts and seeds so that we are replenishing that friendly flora all the time. We need to always do that all the time whether we are drinking tap water or not, but tap water is just not something we want to take in because it does a lot of harm to the body in many ways.
Caryn Hartglass: And when you’re eating a lot of raw food, mostly raw food, your body doesn’t seem to need to drink as much water because the food is hydrated.
Dan Ladermann: That’s right, you’re getting high water content food when you’re eating raw food. The good news about that also is that means that you get a lot of nutrition from the liquids that are in our food. And its not as calorie dense, which means you can eat a lot of raw food, fill yourself up, be satisfied, versus eating a processed food diet where all of the water is taken out, all the nutrition is taken out, it’s very compact. You eat a little bit, it doesn’t fill you up and it doesn’t provide any nutrition so it’s very easy to overeat. On a raw food diet, people’s weight, people’s health just naturally normalizes to a healthy level without ever having to count calories or get out a scale. It just works great.
Cherie Soria: My sister was very overweight her whole life and she drug her feet not wanting to make changes in her diet because when you do, then a lot of other changes have to occur – changes in the places you go, the friends you hang out with and all of that. Finally, and she’s eight years younger than I am, finally she decided that maybe I was onto something because I’m older than her but people were thinking she was my mother.
Caryn Hartglass: And you look so hot, Cherie!
Cherie Soria: (Laughs) Thank you! People thought she was my mother, she couldn’t keep up with us, just running/ walking on the beach she really couldn’t do any of that. And so she went on a raw food diet and it’s two years later and she’s lost 100 pounds. Never dieted, never gave up any foods that she wanted to eat, she just ate her fill and she is a completely different person, psychologically, spiritually, physically, she has experienced a rebirth.
Caryn Hartglass: I love those stories. Now we just have a few minutes and I wanted to talk a moment about Costa Rica. Are you still doing events in Costa Rica?
Cherie Soria: We are not doing events currently; we do have a little place there. We were spending all of our time in Costa Rica, we were spending working so we decided we were going to take a few years off from that and just go to Costa Rica for our own benefit – relax and enjoy it. So, we have a little place there but we plan to do it again soon. Living Light Culinary Institute just really takes up so much of our time, which we love. They say if you love the work you do you never really work a day in your life. We have a passion for this work and we feel so fulfilled buy it and knowing that we are a part of the journey for so many people around the world and helping to spread this lifestyle to so many different countries is really such a blessing for us. This is where we do our work and Costa Rica is where we go to relax.
Caryn Hartglass: That sounds pretty good. Well Dan and Cherie, I love what you’re doing. I learned a lot when I first met you and that was in Costa Rica at one of your Raw World events, and it changed my life and I’m grateful for that.
Cherie Soria: Can we give you our website for your listeners?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes please!
Cherie Soria: It’s www.rawfoodchef.com and we are located in Northern California on the beautiful Mendocino Coast.
Caryn Hartglass: I have never been to Mendocino and I keep saying, talk to me of Mendocino, I’ve got to get there and when I do, I know where to go.
Cherie Soria: You do! And the New York Times just this year put the North coast of California as the number one place in the entire United States to visit and the number three in the entire world, so you do want to come here.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I hope too many people aren’t going to go there because then it won’t be as lovely and special as it is.
Cherie Soria: Well it takes a little effort to get here but it’s well worth it.
Caryn Hartglass: Well thank you so much It’s All About Food and you’re making a wonderful difference on this planet.
Cherie Soria: Thank you, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Be well. I just wanted to mention before we take a quick break, I think I told you last week I’m going to be speaking at an event in Nevada. It’s for a livestock company and they’re having their annual bull sale and there’s going to be a panel on climate change and I’ve been asked to talk about animal agriculture’s contribution to the climate change. I will be the lone vegan talking to about 200 cattle producers and it’s kind of crazy. I’ve got a Kickstarter that we launched last week and we’ve already reached our $2,000 goal, which is exciting. I would ask you to go to my website www.responsibleeatingandliving.com and check out the Kickstarter project that goes until March 1st. We certainly can use all the support we can get until it’s over. The videos we’ve done for this lone vegan project are fun so check them out. Also, we’re talking about raw food and vegan food and how healthy it is for us but the more I research about climate change the scarier it gets about our future and we cannot stop talking about how important eating plant foods and reducing and eliminating animal products from our diet is. It is so important on so many levels, especially about climate change and the environment, helping the environment. Whew! Okay, lets take a little break and then we’re going to do some green hopping, okay? We’ll be right back.
Transcribed by Allyssa Moody, 7/16/2014; edited 7/17/2014 Claire Newman