Avara Yaron – Living Foods Chef, Teacher & Cafe owner of Living Food Lab, Bali

Avara Yaron1. Where do you come from and where are you based now?

I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado.  I started college on the East Coast and transferred to Southern California where I spent the next 23 years.  I moved from LA to Southern Oregon where I lived for 7 years in the middle of a pristine forest.  During this period I traveled frequently, including trips to Bali every year for 13 years.  Now I live in Bali, Indonesia where I have 2 raw food cafes called Living Food Lab and teach about nutrition and raw food preparation.

2. How many times have you circled the sun?

This month, May 2014, I will turn 55 (but people always think I am 10-15 years younger than I am!).

3. How did you become interested in raw foods?

I chose to become vegetarian, to the confusion of my family, when I was 14.  I have been interested in healthy food for a very long time.  I have always loved going to health food stores.  I have also been a lifelong foodie and love serving people gorgeous food.  While living in Southern Oregon I learned about the raw food movement from friends in my community.  I was so passionate about cooking that didn’t think I would ever want to eat only raw food, but I took a raw food course at our local food co-op just to gain more information.  During that class, in one night, I went from raw curious to raw convinced!  Something clicked that night.  It made sense to me that if I put fresh, living food into my body it would be life giving.  As I left the course and walked to my car, it was as if every cell in my body was celebrating.  I was receiving an undeniable, full body YES!  I then did what I often advise people not to do, dove in head first and went 100% raw.  My life pivoted in that moment.

4. How long have you been a raw food eater?

That class at the Ashland Food Cooperative was on March 17, 2009.  I have been happily eating raw food ever since.

5. Do you eat a high raw or an all-raw diet?

The first two years I ate exclusively raw food.  At some point I tried eating a bit of cooked food at times, and still do now.  I travel often and it is sometimes very challenging to stay completely raw.  My body is certainly happiest when I eat raw.  My favorite cooked food is popcorn.  I still like popcorn and a movie, but I don’t do that often!

6. How has your life changed after eating high/all-raw?

Raw food came into my life at a time of enormous change.  My son was in crisis at the same time that my businesses were in crisis.  Nearly all the structures in my life fell apart at once and came back together in new ways.  In the midst of this I became a devoted raw foodist and the raw food took over my life.  First was a period of detoxing which was much more emotional than physical for me.  Then new avenues opened and they continue to open.  I formed a raw food catering business, initially in Southern Oregon, and then moved it to Bali.  What I most appreciate about sharing raw food and education with others is that I feel 100% good about it.  I know this is 100% positive.

7. How do you handle temptation or social situations with people who are non-raw or even non-veg?

For the most part I do not feel tempted!  I love my raw food and the way I feel when I eat it!  At times I will try something if I really, truly want to.  I believe in giving myself what I truly want.  Most of the time what I truly want is raw, and most of the time when I try something, out of nostalgia about a certain food, it isn’t really that amazing.  I’m happiest with a lovely salad!

8. What would you typically eat on any given day?

I always start the day with a Green Smoothie.  Usually I have 2 big glasses.  If I am particularly hungry later, I have a chia porridge of some kind, but most days the smoothie is very satisfying.  I rotate the fruits and the greens in my smoothies.  Often I have a big salad at one of my cafes for lunch.  If I eat lunch late, then I may not be very hungry at dinner time.  Perhaps I’ll have another salad in the evening.  That might sound boring, but within the context of a salad I include a wide, alternating variety of ingredients including fermented vegetables and all sorts of improvised dressings.  For snacks if I want something in between meals I may have a protein bar or a sesame nori bar from Living Food Lab, a nut mix, some fruit or a vegetable.   I drink a lot of water, and coconut water, too.  When I am teaching classes, we prepare gourmet raw food which is appealing for newcomers.  It’s what we often call transition food, helping people enter into the raw food world by giving them raw versions of what they are accustomed to in the cooked food world.  The longer I eat raw food the less I crave these more complex foods.  Day to day I like simple raw food.  I do, however, love creating complex gourmet raw food for special occasions.  I do themed raw food events that are creatively satisfying and so successful that I’ll do several in a row.  They are super labor intensive and I end up exhausted after doing a few of them, needing to take a break for a while.

 9. Could you please describe for Rawfoodlifestyles readers your path to becoming a raw food chef/teacher?

From the early months of my raw food path people were asking me if I would offer classes.  At first I had no intention of teaching.  My focus was on sharing food I made, through special events, a home delivery service and as a private chef.  Making food for people is both an art form and an expression of love for me.

I am completely self taught.  When my body gave me the big yes to raw food and I dove in head first to being completely raw, I suddenly had to figure out how to do it.  I studied every raw book I could find and searched the internet.  Even though I already knew my way around the kitchen quite well, it was still like learning a new language.  It took a while to become fluent in raw.  My enthusiasm for the raw food was so strong that I was inspiring others to give the food a try, but I wasn’t sure I was qualified to teach or that my interest was in that direction.

When I moved to Bali it was with the intention of opening a raw food restaurant in Ubud, but within the first week there the general director of the Green School, where my daughter is a student, asked me to bring raw food to the school.  I started off with a little bamboo table in the Green School warung (small snack bar) displaying food I made at home. The requests for classes continued, so I created my first curriculum and started teaching.  One class led to another, including classes for the children at Green School, but I still saw myself more in terms of a chef providing food for people, and Living Food Lab was born out of that desire. First at the Green School and then in Ubud I opened small cafes devoted to sharing casual, nutritious food.  Initially I was hands-on with the food preparation on a daily basis and for every catering job, but over time my staff have completely taken over the food preparation unless I am introducing something new.  Along the way I have taught raw classes with increasing frequency and have now come to see that as perhaps the most important aspect of my work.  It’s the old adage that teaching someone to provide for them self is more beneficial than just handing them a meal.  I have found that I am passionate about teaching and sharing raw food information.  This is part of how I can be a beneficial presence on the planet.

10. What were some of your challenges when you first started your journey?

Two months into my new raw lifestyle I had what the medical world calls a heart attack.  That term seems off to me, as I know nothing attacked me and actually view it as a liberating experience.  It was part of my personal detoxing, as emotional or more so than it was physical, and certainly not indicative of what might happen to someone else.  The purity of the food was helping me to cleanse a very deeply buried subconscious fear.  It was more of a shamanistic rite of passage than an indication that something was wrong.  The level of cleansing, the totality of it, was staggering.  I had already been on a spiritual path for decades at this point and done much work on myself, yet eating such a clean, clear diet brought along the opportunity to get even more clean, even more free, on the inside.  I did not for one moment wish to back off from my raw path.  I only saw the raw food as supporting my evolution.

11. How did you overcome them and what strategies did you use?

The only strategy I know of is to keep going within.  The way in is the way out, as a song by my mentors Michael Beckwith and Rickie Byars Beckwith says.  I am devoted to my spiritual path, to my daily meditation, to my connection with the Holy Presence within me, within all.  After my heart experience I continued to eat raw and learn more about raw, to allow my subconscious fears to surface and integrate, to listen closely to my inner voice.

 12. What inspires you about preparing and eating raw food dishes?

The mere idea of fresh, organic plant based food thrills me.   I find it wonderfully exciting that we can germinate our seeds, initiate the growing process and take all that brand new life force into our bodies.  Creating all manner of food from tender leafy greens feels so right to me.  The greens inspire me.  Even the bitter ones, like dandelion, are deliciously life giving, and delightful in combination with other flavors.  Another thing that inspires me about preparing and eating raw food is that this high vibration, clean, clear diet, supports not only my physical body, but also my emotional and mental bodies, allowing the whole of me to sing!  I absolutely love to feed people and to be able to give others truly healthy food is a gift for them and a gift for me as well.

13. Is there a secret to creating truly delicious raw meals and if so, what is it?

Love.  Love is the essence of everything and the most important factor in anything.  If we bring love to what we do, even the most simple thing is elevated.  Everyone can tell when they are eating food that has been created with love.  In Bali, where I live, there is a culinary tradition of mixing food by hand, literally with their hands in the food.  They believe the human touch enhances the flavor.  We can infuse our food with soul when we make it consciously.  If we set an intention to make food that brings health and goodness to others, that impacts the flavor of the food.  The making of food is an art form.  Color and texture, aroma and beauty, all play a role as powerful as flavor.  Raw food is so colorful and inviting.  I enjoy creating complex flavors that activate all of our taste buds and I also like to make very simple, pure food.  Sometimes when people eat my food they tell me they feel like their mouth is having a party.  Some of the food just bursts with flavor.  Other foods are gentle or very subtle.  There can be many varieties of deliciousness.

14. What do you think is the best meal and/or recipe you’ve ever created and why?

This year I created an event with a friend that featured a 7 course gourmet raw dinner.  That must be the most ambitious meal I have created.  We called the evening Edible Prayer and it was an opportunity for the guests to literally ingest or embody the 7 chakras.  Each chakra has a color associated with it, a specific meaning and a mantra.  My co-facilitator is a kundalini yoga teacher who explained the essence of each chakra and led the assemblage in a meditation, chanting of the mantra associated with that chakra.  Then they ate a course of food presented on one plate where each element of the course was the color of that chakra.  The first plate was all red, the second all orange and so on.  The most challenging was the fifth, the throat chakra, which is blue.  Using purple cabbage already I dyed daikon blue and put a row of daikon slices together to form a blue rosette filled with a blue pate, surrounded by blue flowers!

15. Are you involved in other lines of work apart from practicing and teaching raw culinary arts?

For many years I designed jewelry, handbags and clothing, manufacturing in Bali.  I do a bit of commissioned jewelry design, infrequently.  I also rep a line of pure, organic food grade essential oils which I use with my food.  Mostly Living Food Lab, writing my book about food, taking care of my young daughter and practicing yoga fill my days.

16. You founded Living Food Lab – a raw vegan cafe in Ubud, Bali. Which year did you do that and what inspired you to do so?

Living Food Lab opened initially at Green School in May 2012.  Our Ubud location opened in June 2013.

I have long been amazed at the low nutritional quality of most school food.  How can we feed our children junk and poison, then expect them to focus and learn?  Living Food Lab is only one food option at Green School; there are others and everyone has a choice as to what they will eat.  I thought Living Food Lab would mostly appeal to the adults, but from the start the kids surprised me.  At first our raw chocolates were the big draw, though some children were going for green smoothies and kale chips from the start.  It didn’t take long before children were standing in line for salads along with teachers and parents.  That thrills me.

17. What are Living Food Lab’s goals and what does it offer to its customers?

Living Food Lab serves casual, accessible food of extremely high quality, as organic as we can get it.  We make eating well easy for people.  At Living Food Lab there are no wasted calories; our meals are nutritious and every sauce, dressing and dessert is nutritious as well.

My vision for Living Food Lab is global.  My intention is to inspire others to care enough about themselves to give themselves beautiful, nutritionally viable food.  Currently we operate cafes, do catering, are developing a product line and offer classes.  The classes encourage people to become conscious of their food choices and give them tools to up-level the quality of the food they eat.  The cafes give people easy access to raw food and are a working blueprint that could be replicated in many locations in many countries.  I have already taught in the US, Bali, Singapore and Australia.  This summer I will be teaching in the US, England, France, Italy and Portugal.  I see myself spreading the word internationally about the power of raw food and holistic healing, both through classes and retreats.  I have been a trained spiritual practitioner for nearly 20 years and have vast experience assisting people in transforming their lives.

18. What changes have you witnessed in your own life as a result of going raw (e.g. physical, spiritual, psychological, social, etc.)?

I was devoted to my spiritual practice long before going raw, and continue to be since becoming raw.  I have meditated every morning for many, many years, and now I do a short meditation before bed.  I see that the cleanliness of the food supports me in being in integrity with myself, supports metal clarity and emotional honesty.  I believe raw food holds a pure vibration and helps me to literally embody what I know to be true spiritually.  It keeps me uplifted and healthy.  I do not get sick.  I used to have energy dips where I would get tired in the afternoon, but my energy level is high and even all day long now.  I used to have emotional peaks and valleys, and would stumble into some deep emotional pits.  My emotional wellbeing is considerably more even now.  I am immensely grateful for this.

19. If you had to select a few high points of your raw life so far, what would you choose?

I love traveling and teaching.  The Indonesian Vegan Society brought me to Jogjakarta and Solo to present.  I facilitated an intensive in Singapore for mothers and their pre-teen daughters.  I led classes in the lovely Australian countryside town of Berry.  This summer I’ll be teaching in my home town for the first time at a yoga center.  Seeing the world while sharing my passion is my dream come true.

20. What kinds of experiences do you most try to evoke through your work and food?

I am interested in helping people wake up and get free.  I know how to help excavate and clear the subconscious.  This is extremely important.  We continuously recreate early traumas until we thoroughly integrate the emotions we ran from or didn’t know how to handle when we were young. Without clearing the emotional residue stashed and hidden in our subconscious, we cannot be truly free nor can we truly live our dreams.  I want to live the life of my dreams and help others to do the same.  Everyone matters and I believe in a world that works for everyone.  My heart knows this is possible.  I want to share this message across the globe.  It’s easy to receive when I’m also sharing raw chocolate truffles.

21. Could you please share with Rawfoodlifestyles readers about your vision for Living Food Lab?

Our modest mission:

living food lab… saving the world one meal at a time!

conscious food, healthy people, happy planet!

22. If you were to give one piece of advice to raw foodists or aspiring raw foodists, what would it be?

If you have not eaten raw food before, try eating something raw with each meal.  Focus on adding raw greens. They will help you eliminate sugar cravings.

If you have never done an entire day of raw food, try eating organic, raw, vegan food for one day. .

If you have been eating raw food… keep eating more of it!  You will be happy you did!

 

23. Would you be willing to share your favorite raw vegan recipe with rawfoodlifestyles readers?  

LIVING FOOD LAB PROTEIN BARS

4 cups cashews, not soaked

3 cups oats

3 cups dates, pitted

1/2 cup flax seeds

1/2 cup goji berries

1/2 cup cacao nibs

1/8 cup chia seeds

1 cup sesame seeds, not soaked (or 1/2 cup white and 1/2 cup black)

1/2 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds, not soaked

1/2 cup almonds, not soaked , chopped

1 tsp sea salt

 

Make the dates into date paste in a food processor.  Remove date paste into a large bowl.  Blend half the cashews and salt in food processor.  Pulse in remaining cashews, leaving the mixture chunky.  Add to the bowl with the date paste.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients and mix well by hand.  Press into a glass dish.  Freeze or refrigerate, then cut into bars.