In this article, Cherie Soria shares on going from winning a cooking contest to embracing a raw food lifestyle. Cherie Soria teaches raw food “cooking” classes and is the author of The Raw Food Revolution Diet.
Kevin: So let’s start very quickly, there are some people who may not know who you are. So let’s start talking about who you are and how you got into this movement.
Cherie: OK. Well I’m Cherie Soria and how I got into this movement is a really long story but I’ll try to keep it brief. I’ve been a vegetarian chef for about 36 years.
Cherie: I won my first cooking contest when I was 12. I learned a long time ago that people love you if you make great food. I liked that. I liked being popular, I guess. I love sharing food with people. Because I had a family history of disease, I learned pretty early in life, in my early 20s, that there was a connection between health and food. So I became a vegetarian in my early 20s and since it was rather odd at that time to be a vegetarian, I started sharing vegetarian food with people to get them to come over to my side. And people liked my food, so I started teaching classes. That’s how I was able to make friends with people who were interested in eating the way I did.
I cut out the dairy and the eggs and pretty soon was teaching vegan cuisine, always learning more and more as I read different people about health and how to make my foods even healthier and even tastier. Then I started reading books by Dr. Ann Wigmore. I had read the “Survival into the 21st Century,” by Victoras Kulvinskas many, many years before but it was so radical to me at that time that the only thing I really believed was sprouting which I made a part of my life and my teaching. I made sauerkraut and a few other things like that but certainly not eating an all raw diet. In fact, when I started reading the teachings of Dr. Ann Wigmore, I realized that I eat very little raw food and I wanted to learn more about raw food.
There was no such thing as gourmet raw food in those days. So I went to the clinic in Puerto Rico to meet this amazing woman and learn how she was curing people of incurable diseases using only raw food and wheatgrass juice, that was a big part of it. So I went there with no intention of ever changing the way really, the way I was teaching or not cooking anymore. That was not a part of my plan. I just wanted to learn more. But while I was there I saw so many miracles that I couldn’t ignore them and I decided I was never going to teach another cooking class again.
Cherie: I had a cookbook ready and in the wings to be published it was all cooked vegan food but I just had to shelf it because I couldn’t in good conscience ever teach cooking after that. She told me while I was there that I would be a beacon of light for her teaching and it just took off like wildfire.. People came from all over the world to learn how to do this with me. It was delicious. They felt great and after Victoras learned about it and started having me prepare foods for events for him.
Kevin: OK, so you worked with him.
Cherie: Yeah, actually he invited me to cater an event. I was catering events for Essene gatherings. He was an Essene bishop. I catered a women’s festival for him at his retreat in Arkansas and he sat me down and said, “You really have to teach what you are doing to chefs. Every chef at four star restaurants they should all know how to do what you are doing.”
I started teaching classes and the very first class that I taught had 45 people in my class and they have been full all along. Every time I add new classes they fill up. We would take three days for seventeen people to set up a culinary school in a convention center. We did that many, many times a year at both Brighten Bush Hot Springs and Harbin Hot Springs because I really thought I had to entice people to come to the classes. I thought if I have them at great places then people will come.
Over the years I always surveyed people how to make these classes better, what do people want more of and where would they be enticed to go if I were to teach classes somewhere else. We built a permanent facility in a town that I absolutely love which is Fort Bragg, California. It’s so beautiful there and our students, even though it takes a bit to get there, our students love being there. Many of them fall in love with it so much that they move there.
So every morning we start out our day with appreciation and it’s so wonderful to be able to start the day that way. It really sets the tone for the entire day. Everybody has something to appreciate. They just connect with it. It helps them to really feel the day is beautiful and special. It doesn’t really matter what happens, even if there is a challenge they can overcome it. And when you really feel like you have some control over your day, you have control over your life. Even if some challenge does arise you are not a victim.
Kevin: You mentioned the raw food kitchen. What do you think are basics that someone should have for raw food prep? And then I want to get into some of the tricks and tips that you have for food prep.
Cherie: OK. We always teach our students how to set it up their kitchen because it is really important not only the equipment that they need but even how you set it up and how you manage it, how you rotate your fruits and vegetables and store them. There arejust so many tips that they can learn. It’s just like if you were going to take up tennis, you can plug away your own way or you can get the best teacher and cut to the chase. It is really important to have the right tools because obviously, you don’t need a microwave and you don’t need an oven. Those things take up a lot of space. There are some things that you really do need and some things that are nice to have but you don’t have to have for a while.
So I am going to start with what you have to have. You have to have a good knife and a good cutting board. That’s the basic. You have to have that. And you really should have a blender. If you can afford to have the best of everything then you should get a high speed blender. My favorite is the Vitamix but some people like a Blend-tec, but a high speed blender, good knife and I suggest at least a good chef knife anywhere from a 6-10 inch chef knife depending upon what feels good in your hand, and a good cutting board.
Cherie: I like bamboo. Bamboo is great because you are not going to have mold growing on it. It seals itself when you wash it. It’s just really good. It lasts a long time and I never had one go. I suggest that people have a food processor because you can make pates and you can make crusts for pies and cookies and things like that in the food processor. Again, you don’t have to have an expensive one. If you can afford the best, get like a 12-cup Cuisinart.
Using a dehydrator is tricky and you do need to know how to use a dehydrator properly because a lot of people think the lower temperature they use in a dehydrator the better and that’s really not true. A dehydrator can become a Petri dish and develop mold and bacteria very, very easily. So if you have something that is thick and high in water content, you need to turn it way up in order to get the temperature of the food warm enough to start evaporating out the moisture. And then if you are going to be using a dehydrator you need to have the right kind of spatula to use. I like to use the offset spatula. That means that the spatula itself is flat and then it has a corner that comes up and then the handle is flat again. So that it’s ergonomically comfortable and easy for you to work. I see people trying to spread things with little rubber spatulas. It just takes three or four times as long because you are struggling to get a smooth even finish that you can’t get without the right tools. There’s a lot of tools that we teach students how to use that make their work so much easier and more efficient and make the product look more professional too.