This material is the opening class topic and is used throughout the entire curriculum. You will be integrating five critical theories of cooking. Your kitchen setup will match the terminology of the language and prepare you to use a regime of organization and order to be efficient with time and costs as you utilize the Natural Cook® system.
When Alfalfa’s Market in Boulder, Colorado asked me to open a cooking school for them in 1983, I hadn’t used a recipe in over a decade. This was a serious grocery store for the time, a leader in the evolving natural food industry. I asked myself, “What could I bring that had vision and value for a burgeoning culture that was asking for healthy, whole foods both at home and in commercial settings?”
My thought process to solve this problem went like this:
1. Teaching from recipes would be boring to me and insulting to the intelligence of a cooking school.
2. If I don’t teach from recipes, what’s left? There were only two pathways that I could see.
A) Use recipes and then teach how to change them, or
B) become a mentor the way I studied, the way Julia Childs studied.
A mentorship is ideal for students, but not commercially viable for a grocery store. Personal computers were just a blink in the marketplace, but I could feel life speeding up, people ready to demand that information be downloaded quickly. The idea of an apprenticeship or mentorship was impractical and outdated.
3. I would just have to use my understanding of “the creative process” that I was given at birth—and hope for the best. Okay, this was to be the path; exciting enough to get me out of bed at 4 a.m,, and to keep me awake until I slept at midnight. As far as I knew, teaching cooking without recipes had not been packaged. I would choreograph the essence of cooking, the way I choreographed dances. So, I asked myself, “What needs to be communicated?”
Once I had made the commitment to create a cooking school for this beautiful store, things unfolded easily. Students were eager. I loved sharing what I had been studying in my personal life for ten years. The only problem was that the effort it took to explain all the possibilities of infinite potential for creating delicious dishes was exhausting for me, and overwhelming for students!
4. This material needed form. It needed a logical structure as a container to hold the process of what happens inside of a natural cook—that is, someone who doesn’t use a recipe and who doesn’t need to be told what to use or how to put the dish together. I needed to access the former dancer inside me to observe what my body was going through when I cooked. I observed and thought deeply discovering the defining results from each step I put the food through. Where was I free to make choices, and what was the common denominator that held the structure?
At 3:00 a.m. on May 12, 1987, the direction of my life “did a 180.” It was a thought, a message, an idea accompanied by the feeling of being “hit on the head” to wake me up. I was preparing to be a student at an acupuncture school in New Mexico, and hopeful to study a career path that I felt would make a difference in people’s lives.
But whatever inspired idea came into me early that morning, the following two-year journey became the book Amazing Grains: Creating Vegetarian Main Dishes with Whole Grains (published H.J.Kramer Inc., 1989). This was my attempt to put down on paper the mystery of what goes on inside a cook who doesn’t use a recipe. The publisher insisted on recipes but allowed me to create a style of written chat about “the creative process” and leave the required recipe itself in the sidebar. It was a beginning. After one season, the idea of opening Alfalfa’s Market Cooking School had been traded in for a second store and The School of Natural Cookery took over the culinary education program. Still fascinated by looking for tools to explain what I now felt confident was a worthy subject, I knew I would need to write about beans and vegetables too. Romancing the Bean (published by H.J. Kramer Inc., 1990) attempted to follow the success of the first inspired grain book. But it wasn’t until 2007, seven years later, that I had observed enough—in my own kitchen, and with my students in their kitchens—that I understood the structure that had been evolving.
Instead of a book centered only around vegetables, I wrote Intuitive Cooking from The School of Natural Cookery (Book Publishing Company, 2007) for my students. I was now able to explain a complete structure for understanding all cuisines, all diets. It became a functional language, and one that has been proven to work.
The Language of Intuitive Cooking is the bones—the framework—of the entire Natural Cook training. As with any language, with practice this efficient, accurate and functional language becomes fluent, as an integral and authentic part of the student. This language requires authenticity, efficiency, accuracy and the option to stay in the mystery.
I am your mentor. The teachers I train are your mentors. Eventually, The Language of Intuitive Cooking becomes your mentor, too.
The Natural Cook framework, based on The Language of Intuitive Cooking™, organizes the student’s mind into categories and the functions of ingredients as they relate to cooking.
When a kitchen is set up to co-ordinate with one’s way of thinking about ingredients and cooking methods, it strengthens all aspects of positive, creative, and cost effective cooking.
This topic is taught with a combination of videos, photos, charts and descriptions of how to select the highest quality ingredients. Ingredient categories are Grains, Vegetables, Proteins, Oil, Herbs/Spice, Cooking Liquid and Salt.
Explanations on how and why ingredients are organized into these categories help cooks understand the reasons for selecting particular ingredients and cooking methods. This allows cooking to be accurate and efficient, while supporting infinite possibilities.
• Cutting: How to achieve common cuts and invent new ones
• Vegetable Shapes: Understanding the appropriate cut in respect for the shape of the vegetable and the cooking method
One of the things I love about cooking and teaching cooking skills is to carry my dance experience into the kitchen. From first picking up a knife, students feel how it is connected to their body and how it moves through the vegetables without a sound, in silence.
The relationships of knife to chef, knife to board, and knife to the shape of the whole vegetable is what we study. It’s about these angles in relationship to each other, adding the motion of the knife, front to back, back to front, and how they all coordinate with the mind of the chef. The final look of the cut vegetable is rhythmical, visually.
One type of knife can be used for almost everything. It’s a Japanese style vegetable knife formulated from three kinds of steel. The blades are wide and long, becoming an extension of the forearm.
Because we are cooking within the concept of wholeness, the idea of casting aside rounded edges to produce an evenly measured diced vegetable look, is unconscionably wrong for everyday cooking. Just because a carrot at one end is tapered small and at the other end is tapered large, there is no need to discard parts of the whole. Instead, look for finished cuts that give a sense of visual rhythm that suits the original vegetable—restful on the eye and energetically whole.
Throughout the training, an understanding of energetic propertiesand nutritional contributionsof the ingredients and cooking methods helps us know how to cook for the variety of season, ages, and activities of our lives.
Details and Inspiration
The creative force of reproduction is one core principle of energetic nutrition.
When I planted a bean in my garden, one seed grew tall and bushy. Then it started to reproduce. One seed gave at least thirty pods. Each pod averaged five more seeds in them. I’ve given birth too, and the amount of energy it takes to reproduce is no small feat. The blueprints in all seeds command my respect for their great power to reproduce and re-create.Ten tiny seeds grew enough kale to last a year.One stalk of millet harvested, and cooked well, might feed a five to ten people or more.
Plant-based cuisine relies on the quality of soil in which seeds are nurtured. As seeds grow, they digest earth’s raw materials, transforming them into nutrients for earth’s people and animals. I’m always stunned when people ask if SNC uses organic ingredients. We have never considered anything else when the options are present.
If a seed doesn’t sprout, it is probably genetically modified (GMO) or grown with stimulating chemicals pushing over-production. When seeds are genetically modified, they do not reproduce.
Where is the plant growing in relationship to air, water, earth, and fire?
What are the characteristics of a seed that grows vertically versus a seed that grows along the surface of the earth? How does this impact our cooking methods? Learning how a food grows and it’s anatomy isintegral to being anatural cook.
Energetic Nutrition is revealed by Color, Taste, Smell
I’m drawn to the color of an orange, its shape, and to feeling the weight of its hidden juice when I pick it up in my hand. Then I lift that round orange ball to my nose and inhale deeply—all while hoping I only get the smell of “orange” and not of chemicals. I’ve been known to sample a twig of parsley while shopping only to find the bitter fullness be repellent even through the flavor of parsley lingers sweetly.The theories of intuitive cooking guide our body’s response reading the energetic qualities of ingredients and food combinations.Babies are like this as they begin to choose their first foods. Trainthem with incremental variety. They know what they need.
Energetic Nutrition of Cooking Methods
Fire is a nutrient.This translates to cooking methods and how long ingredients spend with fire.
The pressure cooker has been hailed as a time saving tool in the kitchen. And that it may be. But I like to think of the pressure cooker as a centering tool. Like when I worka ball of clay on the potter’s wheel. Theforce of energy it takes meto transfer a simple ball into a balanced clump that appearsready for transformation reminds me of what happens to the seeds in thepressurecooking method. The energy of fire, water, and air, compressing the ingredients so intensely that the process transforms the little grain and bean seeds. Previously undigestible, inedible, powerhouses are not only rendereddigestible masses of nutritive power, but a satisfying texture that only comes from a pressure cooker.
Energetic Nutrition and Love
When I step into the kitchen, I like the ritual ofputting on my apron.The apron strings around my waist signal me that alchemy is about to happen. Then I begin with just one ingredient and listen how to support this ingredient to become a satisfying dish. The lightness of being that ignites my creativity makes the dish delicious. Thousands of meals at my table have shown me that this kind of love is a powerful nutrient. Years have taught me it’s all about paying attention to the food as it goes through its transformation. If dishes are not prepared well, they can’t release their nutritional imprint, and if they don’t taste yummy, who will eat them enough to be healed by the satisfying ritual of healthy eating?
A balanced meal is especially satisfying when using the nutrient-dense whole foods cuisine that we study. One can actually stop eating, and eat less, after eating a balanced meal of energetically whole ingredients. Design principles are the same for simple meals to the most complex and exotic. In this topic, artistry relies on detailed study from the other training topics. Exercises in theories of meal composition are woven throughout the entire Natural Cook Training. As the program goes further, the meals become more complex.
Details and Inspiration
The concept for this topic was inspired during an interview with a client as they talked about the dinner they were asking me to cook. A brown paper grocery bag* was nearby and I used it to sketch the meal, the way one might jot ideas that just can’t wait, on a paper napkin. Each time the client lit up with an idea, it went into a category on the brown bag. Dishes outlining textures and shapes that the client told me they liked, formed and were placed into the developing chart. Their tastes and flavors were fashioned into the protein, grain and vegetables of their choice. Often an unspoken topic drove the menu design. But I knew what to look and listen for. Once the structure of the meal’s macronutrients was charted, the missing elements could be filled in while cooking. Leaving some things unsolved in the chart allowed in the moment adjustments to colors, tastes, textures and the actual ingredients that would show up for the meal.
As a young person, when my dad was at the dinner table, he would turn dinner time into a presentation of the principles of art and design. He was an artist and a teacher. We listened, and chewed our peas. When it was time to have my students put the techniques of the curriculum together to create meals, his wise words filled my chart and rule book. Today, SNC has a very clear chart, with rules to help organize the mind and possibilities, and clarity on where to change or be flexible within the good design.
Exercises in theories of meal composition are woven throughout the entire Natural Cook Training. As the program goes further, the meals become more complex.
* This was the beginning of my career as a Private Chef in 1980. The brown bag was just the beginning of the evolved chart now available for students to take into their careers.
The art of creating main dishes with whole, non-gluten and pseudo grains.
The goal of this process is to study infinite possibilities of cooking dish grains, maintaining their whole form.
The process includes learning how to manipulate the elements of texture, taste, and color with quinoa, millet, rices, buckwheat, amaranth, oats, and others, to create original dishes.
Details and Inspiration
In 1980, USA, eating grains in their energetically whole form was rare. It was easy to find white rice on a restaurant’s menu, and “brown” rice was starting to appear in Chinese restaurants and health food stores and restaurants. The possibility of manipulating color, texture, and taste was not yet even a thought for cooks preparing this neutral-flavored ingredient. Rice only provided a background for something more colorful, more “meaty.” Rice was simply a filler.
And I, as a consumer interested in health, was not supposed to notice that brown rice was usually bland, pasty, or dry—because it was “healthy.” But…I did.
A few years later, I worked for the company that first brought Quinoa to the USA. My responsibilities included managing the scheduling and training of people to set up demonstrations about Quinoa, in every kind of grocery store — both health food stores and regular large chain supermarkets. In this position, I created recipes for the demonstration staff to cook and offer samples to each customer that had enough curiosity to step up to the table. “Cook quinoa like rice, boil it” we told the customer. But that standard wasn’t good enough. Rice cooking was often boring, bad technique, and had the wrong water ratio.
Unlike rice, the first hurdle in gaining acceptance and enthusiasm about using quinoa was that, unlike rice that has a sweet taste, it has an undeniably bitter taste. How will America, land of sugar-laced breakfast cereals, embrace the bitter taste if they are hooked on the sweet carbohydrate of refined grains? If both coffee and chocolate—two extremely popular high-profile foods that had clearly proven a bitter taste could be popular both unsweetened and without adding too much sugar—there had to be a way for quinoa to shine. Now, today, almost every deli serving quinoa makes it into a salad. That was our demo in 1982.
I love the personal flair and daring of the dishes prepared by our students because they demonstrate a bold, confident, on-target assembly of technique and flavors. There is nothing boring about quinoa, rice, buckwheat, amaranth, oats and millet dishes. On the contrary, these whole foods are full of potential. These grains are cultural heroes, too. Stories of their history are embedded into the library of our school’s classroom.
Twenty-two different cooking methods highlight amazing versatility of vegetables and sea vegetables. This topic studies how vegetables grow, which informs the cook how to go about selecting the right amount of cooking liquid. Charts organize the thought process, providing information on the best practices for selecting and storing vegetables, treating vegetables for optimum results (when to cut, and when to keep whole) and even what to keep on hand for those days when going to the store is not an option.
Details and Inspiration
To me, vegetables are angels. If I had the choice of eating a beautiful carrot, a juicy beet or a brilliant pea instead of eating dirt and rocks, it would appear that earth had turned into a delicious angel.
I notice that when using a variety of vegetables, which have been transmuted by the power of healthy earth, cooking can be very simple and satisfying. There are choices to be made about whether the vegetables need to be cooked with, or transformed by, sauces. We explore this brilliant food group just as an explorer gives attention to the surroundings. Some vegetables have a “gang consciousness.” They are wild, tough, domineering and complex; others need to be the first, the best, the soloist. Some are more challenging when asked to be eaten alone, preferring to merge easily with any ingredient. Vegetables have the flexibility of being either the star of the dish or a chorus member. The dish possibilities are infinite. The guidelines prevent chaos in complex combinations.
Romancing a bean is easy with The Language of Intuitive Cooking.All the most important technical information is in this training plus applying the creative process produces dynamic, satisfying and somewhat seductive unrefined protein dishes.
The approach for protein in The Natural Cook – training is to understanding how to stage the cooking methods for proper cooking, and storage.Understanding whole beans as protein is also knowing how to place this group of ingredients in a meal’s composition to avoid chaos visually and digestibly.
You will begin to master the art of creating vegan soups and sauces with the simplest most tasteful techniques. Every soup, in every cuisine, falls into one of the five base soup styles in this course. The single binder sauces we study alone, before combining them into complex binder sauces follow the same principles as the soups. The perfection of one, informs the technique of the other.
At first glance, I could not understand why French sauces seemed so complicated. Maybe it was because I didn’t speak French. When I did learn to speak French a bit, I realized that the sauces were categorized not too differently from the styles of soup and sauce in The Language of Intuitive Cooking.
The Language and plant ingredients are less complicated. Our methodology for these forms — soup and sauce — is developed specifically for working without animal broth, eggs or dairy products. When soup and sauce techniques are studied from the plant perspective, there is understanding how and why to include the animal product ingredients.
Additional Topics included in the Complete
Details and Inspiration
click on the topic to learn more
When making these seed proteins from their whole seed, it is difficult to avoid being in awe of the miracle. Since these seed protein ingredients are readily available, it isn’t necessary to make these foods from scratch. However, the information about how to do so is in the classroom. Naturally processed, soybeans, wheat and spelt can go through several consecutively arranged cooking methods to create interesting and memorable “comfort food.”
The training will apply combinations of 18 cooking methods with a creative processes to further manipulate texture, flavor and taste. Once these proteins are fully designed into a texture/color/taste/flavor profile, they are then ready to be incorporated tastefully into beautiful dishes with vegetables or grains, and/or sauces.
Great information to strengthen product design and whole food plant-based menus.
In this topic, we learn by understanding the form we are creating and the function and action of how to work with alternative ingredients, without following recipes. The dessert forms of cookies, cakes and custards are designed for satisfaction while maintaining their innate, whole nutritional valueas closely as possible.This topic, along with the Dish Grain topic, prepares students who want to develop gluten free dishes.
Whole sugars, whole fats, and a myriad of quality binders easily come together to accomplish the basic dessert forms of cookies, bars, pies, cakes, muffins, clear and creamy custards, frostings, and fruit desserts.
Description and Inspiration
One day I was preparing dessert because my first husband and I were going to a couples pot-luck. Ambitiously, and secretly wanting to please him,I’d volunteered to make a lemon meringue pie. Never having made one before, I thought I should follow a recipe. At that time there weren’t any recipes without white sugar, so I substituted honey. Big mistake. Not using the honey, but following a recipe!
When I tasted it in process, it was over the top too sweet and too sour. Our natural food palate wasn’t happy with such drama.This was the last time I followed a recipe, for anything. I made a commitment at that time to trust my knowledge of ingredients and cooking methods for desserts, the way I did with savory ingredients. I would learn to improvise my desserts, in all forms of cakes, cookies, pies, cakes, custards, pancakes, muffins… everything.
That was at least twenty years after I began baking and cooking. Without a recipe, before The Language of Intuitive Cooking, I winged it. These forms were named “Friday Night Desserts,” because in my youth, Friday night was movie night and I wanted to get the ingredients into the oven as quickly as possible. What freedom! The theory inspiring intuitive pastry has become this: if you have sweetener, fat, and flavor, with a select binder, it creates a form. But more importantly, something delicious is happening. If the form goes flat, I would call the cake a cookie; if the custard is too thin, I would use it as a dessert sauce.
Now, I can share with you how to master the creative process and the forms. We improvise to stretch ideas, tastes, forms, and concepts. With that, a personal signature and identity emerge, and these can be captured into recipes.
The information in this topic is foundational for studying desserts and pastry. Students learn how and when to use ratios and where to use our theories. This is an important study in the topic of sugars and dessert forms for any commercial enterprise.Or just because you want a Friday Night Dessert.
At SNC, Living Food Cuisine goes beyond the idea of simply RAW food. It takes the culinary concept of “living food” into the understanding of how live enzymes are preserved during the transformation process. Based on The Language of Intuitive Cooking, this portion of the curriculum adapts cooking methods and techniques for creating beverages, soups, sauces, main plates, and desserts using whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and plant proteins. Meal composition theory that aligns to a living foods diet informs on how to design satisfying menus that are far more than “healthy.”
Details and Inspiration
The Natural Cook training delivers the experience sustaining a life-time of working with living foods. Rather than relying on making this a strict dietary regime, it is intendedto be part of a healthy, balanced diet, where living food methods embellish life. It is however a great opportunity for students to live the life of a living foods diet for two of the four weeks duration of this topic. In addition, this topic provides preservation methods for food storage and sustainability and eliminates waste.
Students will observe and experience how seeds (grains, vegetables, protein) go through a transformation that allows their personalities to take on flavors and become satisfying textures. The vitality of the seeds thrives, while they are prepared using the methods of soaking, sprouting, dehydrating, blending and fermenting, that all aid digestibility and invoke artistry.
Study bread grains and learn four basic styles of dough: 100% sprouted grain, sourdough, traditional yeast, and natural rise. Any of these dough types can be formed into many shapes of bread, including/ baguette, pizza, pita, crackers, both crescent and round dinner rolls, filled batard, and even spiraled cinnamon rolls, bread sticks and crackers.
Details and Inspiration
At The School of Natural Cookery, we see grains as occurring in two main categories, “Bread Grains” and “Dish Grains,” according to how they grow.
Bread grains (ie: wheat, corn, rye, spelt, barley, kamut) grow differently from dish grains (ie: quinoa, millet, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, oats). Because of their exposure to nature’s elements, and when they have no protective hull, bread grains have a tough skin. Their tough skin makes them less palatable to eat and more difficult to digest without pre-treatments, which helps them be part of main dishes.Unlike “dish grain,” which are usually cooked and served energetically whole, Bread Grains are most often milled into flour to make crackers, breads, and pastas. Although the grain flour is called “whole,” milled bread grains are not “energetically whole” when we eat them. Bread Grains may be prepared with the same techniques as Dish Grains to soften their tough skin and manipulate their texture. But the focus of this topic is about bread forms and not main dishes.
This group of lessons covers two month at the end of the training. Each week you will a popular international cuisine. The goal of this topic is to bring together everything you have studied into the context of dishes that have names and expectations. Until now, the training pushes students to improvise, invent and cook with confidence not knowing what the result will be. In this section we study defined dishes and call it recipe translation into The language of Intuitive Cooking so that student now will be able to cook anything from all cuisines and for all diets. In other words, we are inspired by classic cuisines and upgrade the quality to “wholeness” and plant-based, without loosing the sensuality or nutritional benefits of a classic dish. It’s amazing to see students cook an entire meal without having ever seen or tasted it before. As a student this caps your training to have the confidence to invent dishes, and to translate classic dishes well, without having to have eaten them before, as the case is upon occasion.
Additional Topics included in the Natural Chef Training
Details and Inspiration
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In additional to comprehensive Natural Cook training the following topics provide structure throughout the Natural Chef student’s curriculum.These additional topics round out the experience to gain strength in skills that enhance any chef profession.
Mastery of technique, timing and co-ordination with cooking and organization required in a plant-based kitchen help to qualify a chef for professionalism.
Learning food management systems begin with understanding the amount of time a food remains energetically viable; how to store effectively and safely; how to cook and order quantity of ingredients
Leadership in meal composition and production is an art rooted in communication.Because we are teaching through a language unique to empowering the creative process and accuracy of cooking, it supports a chef to understand and learn how to think and communicate effectively and efficiently while leading collaborators, clients, and customers.It is this skill that helps a graduate of SNC gain the contract with confidence that they can perform it well.
Throughout the Natural Chef training teachers might include to how to use the topic of the week for different styles of business.A student’s question lead discussions on business topics.
Food photography lessons create images that communicate to a teacher about the student’s weekly assignment.Using the language from SNC, teachers and students dialogue about taste, color, texture, cooking methods, design of dishes, and more. Hundreds of assignments make this training a lifetime of photographic memories.
The online platform is available for 9 months following graduation. Developing a portfolio with images and templates to organize the dishes ingredients , cooking methods, and process with instructors notes on the student’ homework is available to review and to create a professional portfolio for building business relationships.
Energy exercises are taught in the live labs to initiate a training on how to use portions of the chakra system to control normal pressures associated with intense cooking objectives.This is especially important to bring into a cooking practice when working“in the unknown” creating dishes, on the spot, with ingredients at hand, under the time pressure of being a professional.