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On May 13th we celebrated the most recent graduating class of Natural Food Chefs. In the last 15 weeks, these nine people went through an amazing transformation, all while staying true to why they came to Nutrition Therapy Institute in the first place— to learn how to cook food that not only tastes amazing but that also nourishes the people around them.
The type of person that chooses to go through the Natural Food Chef program is special. They could have chosen any culinary program in the country and gained the necessary skills to be a personal chef or just cook amazing-tasting food. But they chose to come to NTI because they not only want to become amazing chefs but they also want to learn a greater skill, and that is to better understand how to nourish anyone who has the pleasure of eating the food they prepare, whether it be friends and family or future clients.
Skills, Knowledge, and Friendship Gained
In the kitchen, the students learned culinary skills starting with foundational concepts and building to advanced techniques throughout the term. Michael B. said that “I started with basically zero foundational skills, zero knife skills, and now I’m just so confident. Confidence is the biggest thing I gained through the program, just being able to figure out how to cook something and have it be healthy, and also to know where to source really good food that is going to nourish me and the people I care about.”
The curriculum is inclusive of all different diet modalities and designed to teach how to optimize nutrient density no matter what is being prepared. This prepares graduates to go on to work with many different populations, recognizing that everyone has different nutritional needs in order to thrive. Michael C. recalls that his favorite subject covered in class was learning about meat. “Meat has always been a passion of mine and learning about respecting the animal and how to effectively utilize and cook it properly in order to nourish ourselves is so important, this includes understanding how the animal is raised and how that contributes to nutrition as well.”
Science-based Holistic Nutrition
The students also learned the science behind how healthy foods support optimal health through the lectures taught by NTI owner and director, Dianne Koehler. These lectures we affectionately dubbed “nutrition by firehose” because they are so packed with nutrition information that chefs can apply in their cooking. They also got to explore business opportunities in the ever-expanding field of healthy cooking in the business portion of the program.
They did all this and so much more all while making friends for a lifetime and having fun, always laughing in the kitchen. Erin remembers one of the funniest moments in the kitchen when they were making chocolate-covered cherries with frozen cherries and they threw too many cherries in the melted chocolate at once and it made the chocolate seize, so in a mad panic they were trying to fish out the cherries before everything was ruined— “it makes me laugh every time I think about it,” Erin said.
Not only did the students gain new culinary skills, and knowledge about food and nutrition, all while sharing so many laughs and special moments in the process. But they also got to eat all of the delicious food they were preparing each day. When trying to recall her favorite recipe Tanya said, “we’ve done so many recipes and each one is so unique and so flavorful and colorful, choosing a favorite recipe is like trying to choose a favorite child”.
The chef instructors take great care in sourcing the highest quality ingredients; using only organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, wild-caught, and pasture-raised products. While strictly avoiding ingredients like food additives, inflammatory oils, and processed foods, that contribute to chronic, and unfortunately all too common, health conditions. Lead Chef Instructor, Tracy recalls she alone visited Natural Grocers over 45 times throughout the term, and this doesn’t even account for the shopping trips the other two instructors, Chef Jacqui and Chef Amber made on the days that they taught.
Get Ready, Here They Come!
For the graduation ceremony, they designed a menu that highlighted the skills they had learned throughout the program. The menu featured Roasted Carrot and Wild Rice-Herb Salad, Avocado Deviled Eggs, Crudite with Butternut Squash Queso and Guacamole, Surf and Turf Bites, Pea and Basil Soup Shooters, Bacon Wrapped Dates, Avocado Pudding, and No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies.
On graduation day, the students came together for the last time in the kitchen to cook for their friends and family that had supported them through the transformation of becoming a Natural Food Chef.
We will miss having everyone in the kitchen three days a week with all of the laughter and amazing smells coming from the kitchen. But this is just the beginning of their journeys as Natural Food Chefs to changing the world, one nourishing dish at a time.
To see what a day in the life of a Natural Food Chef check out some highlights from Chef Meghan, a graduate of the Spring 2021 cohort.
Are you interested in learning the necessary skills to make a positive impact on your community’s health through the food you prepare? Get in contact with NTI’s admissions team via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 303-284-8361 to learn more about the Natural Food Chef program. Enrollment is open for the fall term, starting August 29th, 2022. But don’t wait, applications will only be accepted until June 15th, 2022. We’ll see you in the kitchen!
About the author: Amber is a self-proclaimed nutrition nerd. She found Nutrition Therapy Institute as a student after many years of passionately pursuing health and wanting to learn how to thrive rather than just survive. She is a graduate of both the Nutrition Therapist Master and Natural Food Chef programs and believes that knowledge equals empowerment, so she is grateful she is able to guide others through their educational journeys as a part of the advising team and a chef instructor at NTI.
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