I was in school at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in NYC in 2004 when David Wolfe came to speak one weekend. He had 1200 people on the edge of their seats for 4 hours; we had speakers every weekend, most of which caused the massive class to fall asleep or resort to side conversation.
David, on the other hand, had us all compelled, enthralled and absolutely SOLD on the fact that raw food was the most amazing thing ever. If you have ever heard him lecture, you’ll know exactly what I mean, he has a way of speaking that captures your attention.
From there, I decided that when I came back to England I wanted to be a raw food chef.
In 2004, there was only one raw food cafe in Brighton (where I was living) and so the chances of me getting a job there was pretty slim.
However, I returned home, opened the local paper and what did I see?
“Raw food chef required for cafe in Brighton”
Boom! Crazy, right? No! It’s fate. I like to believe in fate. I like to believe that things happen for a specific reason and that we are guided onto the path we belong on.
I started straight away and, having zero previous experience in raw food preparation, threw myself into the deep end.
I taught myself the basics of raw food prep; soaking, sprouting, prepping Monday for a dish I’d be serving Friday… you know the deal.
Working 70 hours a week and menu planning in my off time, I taught myself a ton of skills in a very short period of time.
The only thing we never touched on was raw chocolate making. Back then, nibs and dates blixed together with some cashews were truffles, ya know? Naked Chocolate was the only book available on the topic of raw chocolate making.
After about 1 year, I left the cafe and started working for Kate Magic, who was running the only raw chocolate company that I knew of. This is where I learned what raw chocolate was in terms of ingredients and how to make some decent chocolate.
While I was there, I met Linus Gorpe who was child minding for Kate and making chocolate as a side business. Linus was the first person to start tempering raw chocolate, as far as I know.
I knew that he was onto something special. His chocolate was revolutionary and it excited me. You know when something excites you from deep within, it’s something to pay attention to and I did.
Not long after meeting him, I started working for him in his home in Brighton where he had converted a little bedroom in his home into a chocolate making room.
I learned so much, so quickly and I loved it! I didn’t love the monotonous batch after batch production, but I did love learning more about this incredible ingredient.
Within 6 months of working for him, we moved into a commercial working space and started working with industrial chocolate making equipment; the real deal!
This was quite the experience! I certainly found it interesting, however the separation I felt to the ingredients was strong and not something that resonated with me. This was during a period in my life where I was craving to know more, grow more, get further, excel, etc..
I had been in touch with Chad Sarno for a couple of years, we had talked about me working with him, but the opportunity had never presented itself. Until now…..
Chad got in touch and told me that Saf was opening and asked me to come train in Germany for a couple of months while the London restaurant was being built and designed.
What do you think my response was ?
Wrong, I was like, “ Nah! No thanks, world renowned raw food chef, Chad Sarno”
Ha! Joking, of course. I was there like a shot!
After being in Germany for a few months Chad sent me to Turkey to see where it all started and, while I was there, I went to a massive chocolate factory.
This place had machines that processed upwards of 1 tonne of product at a time! It was amazing, truly. I’d never want to work in a place like that, but I find it intriguing regardless.
Soon it was Saf London time… a very exciting time. We were developing the menu and, of course, Chad had most of the dishes covered, except the desserts. He, admittedly, doesn’t excel in raw desserts and chocolate. Enter Amy Levin. He asked me to take over the recipes for the initial dessert menu and was blown away with what I brought him.
From then on out, he asked me to develop the sweet dishes at the restaurant and therefore I went from Senior Sous chef to Senior Sous and Pastry Chef.
Chad would constantly challenge me, he’d push me to challenge my boundaries, stretch my comfort zone, use new ingredients, make it better, make it with more components, replicate this, invent that…. It was never ending and I loved it.
It wasn’t until I left Saf and started work as a personal chef that I realized how much I had learned during my time at Saf, from Germany and Turkery to London.
I was frequently being asked to teach people to make chocolate and desserts, but I wasn’t a teacher, yet. After being asked about a dozen times by various people, I decided to put a class together and, from there, it organically (and with very little effort from me) developed into the Fundamentals of Raw Chocolate and Advanced Raw Chocolate classes that I now teach in South London and online as eCourses.
When I say that I put very little effort into it, what I mean is that classes filled naturally. I didn’t promote them very much and had no clue about online marketing.
This is another situation in which I believe that this was my fate and, the fact that I have arrived where I am today, with this business, is proof to me that I was destined to teach.
I have now been teaching since 2009 and it’s been an amazing journey of self and professional discovery.
My chocolate making skills continue to grow; I still experiment with new ingredients, methods and ideas on a regular basis. That is the trademark, to me, of someone who is excellent in their field; they are always learning, growing and changing, this never stops and, when it does, it’s time to find your next passion.
Through teaching, I have met and taught some of the most incredibly talented people and I feel blessed to have them in my life. They inspire me and I hope that I continue to inspire them back.
I think that just about sums up my raw chocolate journey.
If you’d like to know where my company name, Ooosha, came from – click here and get all up in that.