Archive for the ‘Natural Gourmet Institute’ Category


Author & Life Coach Lorna Sass, her partner Michael, and her donated books

On Friday, May 3, Natural Gourmet honored transformational life coach and renowned cookbook author Lorna Sass (Cooking Under Pressure, Lorna Sass’ Short-Cut Vegan, Whole Grains for Busy People, Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way) for her generous donation of 1000 books from her personal collection to NGI’s newly organized library. The dedication occurred at our weekly Friday Night Dinner.

Our founder Annemarie Colbin, PhD and our own resident author, instructor, and librarian Jay Weinstein personally and warmly thanked Lorna in a special ceremony for her valuable contribution to the school.

Jay Weinstein was duly impressed with the collection:

Lorna has donated just about 1000 books to the library, and you can see the range of books just by looking on our shelves. Everything from Larousse and Escoffier to Louisiana Bayou youth group fundraiser cookbooks. Mostly, I chose international and American regional titles from her enormous collection. Her most recent donated trove represents Eastern Europe, including Russia, Poland, Georgia, Ukraine, and the Balkans. . . . [Lorna] spoke . . . about wanting to place these books in a good home, and how she felt that NGI was the perfect place for them.

Perfect indeed. The books have been and will be put to good use. Our students use the library extensively to research menu plans for classes and design menus for their own Friday Night Dinner projects.

Lorna at the dedication with NGI Founder Annemarie Colbin and Instructor Jay Weinstein

Lorna at the dedication with Annemarie Colbin, PhD and Instructor Jay Weinstein

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Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D.

Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D.

For several days I have been hearing lots of commentary about an article written in Time Magazine by Dr Mehmet Oz, who I’ve known for many years.  He seems to say that choosing organically grown foods is elitist because it costs more than conventional, and he seems to assume that in a choice between more expensive foods and cheaper ones most people will choose the less pricey kind.

When I started out noticing food and its effect on health, I didn’t care how much it cost. Even when I was flat broke, I spent the money on organic and health-supportive foods.  I couldn’t have justified giving my children harmful, pesticide-laden foods because they were “cheaper.”  I would imagine there are still people out there like me, who go for good quality regardless of price.

Dr Oz does not seem to think so. He says “a lot of the foods we ate in childhood can be good for you and good to eat” – IF (note the caveat) you know how to shop.  Of course, the food that he and others of his age ate in childhood was better, less contaminated, less industrialized.

It’s true that in many neighborhoods it’s hard to find fresh produce, whole grain bread, and the like.  But why should we settle?  Why not educate people to demand fresh food from the corner bodega?  They’ll stock it if we demand it and buy it.

Dr. Oz considers frozen and canned food equivalent to fresh.  Hm.  Years ago journalist Suzanne Hamlin of the New York Times wrote about someone who was eating only frozen and canned foods, and the health problems this person encountered.  I couldn’t find the article, but I remember it was dire – also, that it disappeared quickly from the archives, for obvious reasons.  Who wants to know that such common food could kill you and, what’s more, that it could cause memory loss and mental confusion.  Frozen meats may be OK – frozen vegetables maybe not.

Go on, Dr. Oz. Try a week eating only canned and frozen vegetables. I bet not even you would be willing to do that. As a “food lover,” he ignores the subtler aspects of food: “Nutritionally, an egg is an egg. Cage free is kinder but much pricier.”   Perhaps, but it also tastes very different.  Commercial eggs taste sulfuric and, if you happen to pass some wind (forgive the indelicate reference) it smells really bad. And if you burp – forget it.  You stink yourself up.  For that reason, I only buy organic or free range eggs. They taste much better. And your whole body smells normal.

Dr. Oz points out that free-range chickens and pasture-fed meats are also kept free of hormones and antibiotics. If that is important to you and you have the money to spend, he suggests, by all means opt for pricier organic meats.  Otherwise, obviously, you’re stuck eating all those hormones and antibiotics.  Considering antibiotics are given to cattle so as to fatten them up, we need to ask what these elements contribute to the epidemic of obesity everyone is wailing about.  I wonder. The heaviest people, young and old, are the ones who eat these “cheapest” foods.  Well, as has often been said, you get what you pay for.

In Dr. Oz’s article, canned foods are considered “winners.” He considers canned salmon equivalent to fish fresh out of the water.  But that is not all that counts.  I will never order a dish in a restaurant that gives me a slab of canned salmon instead of fresh, would you? I find they taste very different, although they may have the same amount of protein. Well, if I’m in a bunker, war is coming, and there is no other food, OK, it will keep me alive, thank you very much.

I appreciate the fact that the risk of famine has pretty much disappeared from our world – but we are left with a completely different problem: How to choose foods that are good for us?   That is just as important as choosing foods that will keep us alive.  The two are not equivalent, as a heart surgeon would know.

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Our third contest winner, Debbie Rosmarin, graduated from our Chef’s Training Program earlier this year. Debbie shares an insightful and empowering story about her newly-adopted health-supportive lifestyle.

Debbie writes:

I am a graduate of Natural Gourmet Institute’s Chef’s Training Program. The education I received has completely changed how I feel about food in relation to the earth, cooking, and overall health.  I was never someone who noticed plants or liked to be outside, but getting on the path to eating natural foods made me feel more connected to the earth.  I can go to the farmers market and really think about the path that the animal, vegetable, or grain came from before it got to my plate. When eating from a can or package, it is difficult to make a direct connection, making food seem so far removed from us.

This newfound adoration of nature has also influenced my life in other ways. My father is a dermatologist and I always feared the sun. Granted, I still don’t sunbathe and won’t be out for longer than a certain period of time without putting on sunscreen. However, I can appreciate the sun more, knowing that it provides me with Vitamin D and that it helps the plants on my windowsill grow. In general, being outside in the fresh air makes me feel more rejuvenated and happy.

This connection to the earth has also affected products I buy other than food.  I try to buy clothing that is as natural as possible, too. I also think about the beauty products I use and the effect that an external lotion can have internally. The fake chocolatey smell of products previously bought from chain stores like Bath & Body Works pale in comparison to using pure cocoa butter. As Paulo Coelho said, “It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.”

The culinary aspect of Natural Gourmet changed how I feel about food. Cooking was a skill that I did not learn while growing up, but after Natural Gourmet, I find it extremely empower edtaking control of my own health and not feeling dependent on restaurants and prepackaged foods from the grocery store.  Cooking with wholesome ingredients makes me feel like I am treating my body the best way I can and provides me a sense of peace and control in a chaotic world.

What I love most about my newfound knowledge is that it also helps me to nourish those I love. My husband suffered from Crohns Disease for many years and mainly ate a Standard American Diet. With my influence he now looks at ingredients as much as I do and always makes sure he has an abundance of vegetables with every meal. His stomach rarely bothers him, and he now prefers coffee without artificial sweeteners, grass-fed beef, fresh organic vegetables, and foods that are unprocessed.  Seeing my husband’s health improve has made me feel humbled by the power of healing foods and in complete awe of the powerful effects it can have on one’s life.

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As we mentioned yesterday, the results of our contest “How did the Natural Gourmet Institute change your life?” are in! Meet our second winner, Carolyn Gilles, who graduated from our Chef’s Training Program in 2005. It’s an inspirational and heartwarming story . . .

Carolyn writes:

In 2004, I was living in Savannah, Georgia and had begun to cook for clients and parties. I felt I had finally found something I was interested in enough to start a career. (Until that point, I had collected a lot of “jobs.”)  Being vegetarian at the time, I had zero interest in learning to cook meat, so upon searching for a culinary school, my primary criteria was that it be vegetarian (at least mostly). Much to my surprise, I found the Natural Gourmet Institute via Google. I researched the school, got a few recommendations, and took the biggest and most rewarding leap of my life to that point.

I blindly rented an apartment in Murray Hill that was available for the exact 4 months I needed it with an unknown roommate, signed up for the Chef’s Training Program, and was on my way in only a matter of a couple months. (Ya gotta follow your gut!) My program (CTP 119) started on February 1, 2005. I was 24 years old and excited about everything the world had to offer: I was truly soaking it all up.

The instructors and fellow students made the Natural Gourmet everything amazing that it was for me. The support and general sense of care was evident in every classroom and office. I never felt intimidated or scared, only supported and encouraged to try new things and push myself to grow and learn. Being a young woman, alone in a new city, I also really appreciated the weekend field trips some of the instructors would organize. It was a safe way to get to know the city and all it had to offer.

I came to the school thinking I knew healthy food . . . and that was turned upside down. I learned more than I had ever known about industrial agriculture and Annemarie Colbin’s wisdom shared in “Food and Healing.” I remember the excitement of learning all of this new information and knowing very clearly that my life would never be the same.

After graduation, I was not ready to go back to my life in Savannah. Not only did I know I had more to experience and learn in NYC, I had fallen in love with one of my CTP cohorts, Schot Hannan. We lived in Brooklyn together for 4 years after the program and in 2009 we moved to my home state of Kentucky, where he could attend medical school and get a taste of life as I knew it . . . a little bit slower paced.

With Schot finishing up his 3rd year at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine hoping to pursue a career in endocrinology and pediatrics (addressing childhood obesity), we recently got engaged and hope to be married later this year. In May 2011, I opened a small teaching kitchen here in Lexington, KY called The Wholesome Chef. I am teaching average everyday people here what real food is and how to prepare it. It is the most rewarding career I could have imagined for myself, and every day I am grateful for the experience I had at NGI and in NYC in general. Perhaps someday Schot and I will be business partners, treating his patients with good food and teaching them the skills they need to empower positive change in their own lives.

Should Schot and I find our wedding happening in New York, I’ve always dreamed of buying all the FND seats and having our rehearsal dinner there . . . back to the place that brought us together and changed our lives for the better!

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