A Quiet Revolution
NTI’s Chef Lynda Lacher may have years of experience in the kitchen and formal training at Le Cordon Bleu®, but her first recipe came to her in a dream. She was only ten years old when her unconscious mind invented “Magic Dream Balls.” A dessert any kid would gladly eat, the recipe was a mixture of peanut butter, Rice Krispies®, chocolate and nuts. It was this innocent dream and watching her mother in the kitchen that sparked Chef Lynda’s passion for cooking. It didn’t matter whether she was making marshmallows or soup, Chef Lynda’s mom always supported her- buying whatever ingredients her daughter’s latest culinary endeavor called for.
It is this same support- and a whole lot of guidance- that Chef Lynda offers students in the Natural Foods Chef (NFC) program at NTI. Her encouragement, and the intimate setting in a historic house near Denver’s City Park, fosters a real sense of community among participants in the program. Whereas most culinary schools have classes so large it can be hard to even find the instructor, class size in the NFC program is limited to 15. This means students get constant, personalized feedback. They also bond with one another in a way that is unique. It is not unusual for students to form life-long friendships or business partnerships during the 16 week term.
A typical day in the NFC program includes a lecture and instruction in the culinary skills and techniques needed to prepare everything from basic soups and stocks to raw foods. Students then work together to prepare lunch and dinner based on the day’s topic. There is no doubt that sitting down together and enjoying the meals they’ve prepared makes all the hard work worth it. While eating, the class often discusses and practices ways to make meals a time to unwind, share and re-connect. These are the lessons students incorporate into their own lives, facilitating change in those around them long before they graduate. It is that passion for change and impacting people’s lives in a positive way that Chef Lynda shares with her students. She says, “I kind of think of it as my quiet revolution in the kitchen. I’m here to affect people strongly, but we do it in the kitchen. It has a ripple effect from there.”
There is no question that graduates of the NFC program are making waves. Their training is unique in that it combines a rigorous, science-based nutrition education with traditional culinary skills emphasizing natural foods. As a result, their skills are in high demand. Many start their own personal chef business where they prepare therapeutic meals for people with food allergies or health conditions. Some cook for families that recognize the importance of eating healthy, homemade food but lack the time or energy to do it themselves. Others teach cooking classes or get their feet wet cooking for a natural food restaurant. A few have developed their own rejuvenating wellness retreats. Another was hired as the executive chef at an elderly care facility. One graduate even did the NFC program before going to medical school so he would know how to educate his patients on the importance of diet and nutrition. Regardless of what NFC graduates decide to do, it’s clear that the demand has never been greater for their unique talent and their commitment to a revolution that is best started in the kitchen…and continued around the dinner table.