Meet The Central Coast Therapeutic Chef
Naida’s passion for food and cooking started at a very young age. She grew up in a French-American family that put a lot of pride and love into the meals they made. Food was a huge part of her family’s identity, and as Naida grew up, it became an integral part of hers as well.
But it wasn’t until later in life, when Naida was confronted with health issues of her own, that the connection between health and nutrition, food and its effect on the body, became more than just a connection, it became a path to follow. And so she attended Bauman College, in Berkley, CA, a culinary arts school that focuses on nutrition, where she became a certified Natural Chef.
After Bauman, Naida met Nancy L. Walker, owner of The Wellness Kitchen, a non-profit meal prep and education service in Templeton, CA. Naida worked at The Wellness Kitchen for just over a year and became the therapeutic chef and taught healthy cooking classes.
Since the devastating news of The Wellness Kitchen’s closure, Naida has decided to create Wild Dandelion Meal Prep Company. Through her business, Naida wants to make healthy food options more accessible to the community; people shouldn’t have to feel discouraged by their dietary restrictions or health choices. And lastly, it is possible to have nutritious food and have it be flavorful and delicious!
Why Wild Dandelion?
Growing up in Cambria, Naida and her family would often spend their Sunday’s walking together on the beach, combing the shore and collecting mussels, hiking in the forest near their house foraging for mushrooms, or even collecting edible plants in their yard. The first time Naida ever saw a dandelion (that she can remember, at least) she pointed to it, that kind of plain looking yellow flower, and asked her mom if it was something they could eat. In her thick French accent her mom responded, “Of course!” And so Naida proudly added the leaves of the dandelion into the basket her mom was carrying, along with all the rest of what they had collected that day.
Later that night, as they cooked dinner, Naida learned all about dandelions. She learned how misunderstood they were; how when most people thought of dandelions, they imagined some unwanted, stubborn weed growing in their garden. But dandelions are something you can eat, and more than that, they’re a nutritional powerhouse! And for centuries people all over the world have been using them to treat various health issues and deficiencies. This connection sparked in Naida a passion for natural food and gave her her first understanding of what it meant for something to be “locally sourced.”
And so, this plain yellow flower came to represent, for Naida, how food is more than just food; food is medicine (but doesn’t have to taste like it). And the wild dandelion came to symbolize her journey from foraging in the woods with her family as a child, to where she is now, preparing healthy meals for you!