Plant Based talks to Stephanie Jeffs, founder of cookery school Explore Raw, about sharing her passion for raw plant based cooking.
When Stephanie Jeffs first started up Explore Raw as a website in 2012, she didn’t start out with a plan or much of an idea of what it would become. Initially materialising as a fundraising workshop in a friend’s kitchen, the first event was such a success that Stephanie quickly planned more. Now, Explore Raw is running cooking masterclass workshops, pop up events and raw retreats as the company continues to expand. In 2015, she even wrote a cookbook titled ‘Spiralize’ full of cooked and raw plant based recipes.
We spoke to founder and owner Stephanie Jeffs to find out more about her background and give you an insight into the cookery school.
How did you go about setting up the Cookery School, and what is your main goal for the school?
Explore Raw Cookery School came from my passion for living plant based foods and my passion for sharing knowledge. I found that there were more raw food classes popping up that were awesome, as the plant based and raw food world was growing, but I was getting frustrated. I knew that I could attend a class that could help me make a raw food cashew cheesecake or play with chocolate. But there was nothing that I could find that could help me truly get a good grounding in the essential ethos of what a raw food diet really means.
My main goal for the school is to enable students to ‘bring your food to life’: to be able to prepare stunning, creative, health providing living foods without stress. When we are in our own kitchens at home and we fancy a sandwich or a meal there’s no panic. We open the cupboard or fridge and it’s usually bulging with the foods that we know we enjoy.
Raw, plant-based food has obviously turned your life around – what are your favourite plants to cook with?
I am totally obsessed with nuts & seeds so I guess these are my favourite things to work with. The world of nuts and seeds is mostly unexplored. I believe that we’re not doing it properly! We need to get back to basics. We need to stop using seeds as casual sprinkles on meals and start seeing them as an incredible main ingredient in a range of recipes. We need to learn how to bring nuts & seeds to life.
Are your recipes and style influenced by any part of the world or anyone in particular?
The culmination of all my life experiences has brought raw food to my plate. In the early raw days my recipes were about replication. If I saw a pizza recipe – I wanted to make it raw. If saw a shepherd’s pie recipe – I wanted to make it raw. When I was writing the recipes for Spiralize I went a bit Heston Blumenthal in the head. I’ve always admired him as a creative chef and I wanted to use that energy to get creative with my book.
The last thing I wanted for Spiralize was to create a recipe collection of a bunch of spiralized pasta dishes with different sauces. There was nothing exciting in that for me.
What is the trickiest thing about teaching raw cookery? Are there any foods in particular that you have struggled to make a raw version of, or any ingredients you tend to stay away from?
The trickiest thing about teaching raw is that I would like to spend at least a week sharing everything I know before I get to sharing the recipe! I want people to stand in the shoes of a raw food chef and get crazy excited about seeds. But few people are ready for that level of commitment so I have to help people start out recipe by recipe and help them get hands on.
As far as recipes go I don’t consider anything impossible. Sometimes things go wrong in the kitchen but that’s just the learning that’s leading you to an amazing undiscovered raw food story. The recipe that you don’t know you can create yet!
The adventure never ends. The one thing I haven’t been able to find yet is a deliciously raw version of roast potatoes. And why would you want to replace them? I keep those in my diet as a much loved cooked food option.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to switch to a raw diet?
Just start. Don’t be afraid of raw food or worry that you are signing up to some off-grid raw food cult. Start introducing more raw fruit & veggies in to the diet. Start juicing. Eat green smoothies. I firmly believe that if everyone replaced breakfast with a high-vibe awesome green smoothie then the world would be a better place and we would all be a lot healthier!
What can people learn from coming along to one of your classes?
If you like the sound of great health and longevity — get ready to get excited about raw foods. Then just get excited about food. Learn how to work with ingredients again and how to prepare them raw. Get sprouting. Make your own nutmilks. Eat microgreens. Have a green smoothie every day.
I believe that the best foods in the world are organic plant based healing foods made from activated living ingredients. Working with these foods will help you reconnect to your health again. They will help you bring your food to life so you can be the best you possible.
For more information about classes at Explore Raw head to: exploreraw.com