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My Lucky Break

I had been cleaning cabins in the Santa Cruz Mountains and was asked to clean up at a doctor’s seminar. They said I did a beautiful job and asked me to come back next week. I came back with my cleanings upplies, and they asked, “What’s that?” I said, “I thought you wanted me to come back.” They said, “We do, but we don’t want you to clean, we want you to cook!” I told them I didn’t know how to cook, and they said, “Don’t worry we’ll teach you.”
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I ended up cooking for Dr. Pierre Pannetier for two years. It was here I began learning the therapeutic value of natural foods. I began to flourish in this atmosphere, taking note that amongst doctors and healers in the natural medicine field there was general agreement that greater healing took place on a vegetarian diet. The dietary recommendations then, were 80% raw and 20% cooked. Yes, believe it or not, this was in 1974!

By word of mouth, (and taste buds) I was fortunate enough to be referred to other doctors who needed a vegetarian chef. These doctors are now noted for their pioneering work in preventative medicine, herbology, natural healing and nutrition: Michael Tierra, Bernard Jensen, Paavo Airola, and Michael Klaper. Each doctor has lectured, published books and led many workshops. They were teaching about specific health conditions and recommending specific foods for those health conditions. I began putting meals together for the seminar students and doctors that reflected the health principles that were being taught.
Photo at left: This photo was taken on Dr. Jensen’s 85th birthday. His birthday party had been cancelled because he was not well. He was so happy that I gave him a classic Bible, something he dearly wanted, that he spontaneously kissed me. Dr. Jensen was my family doctor and friend; I had known him since I was 16 and we worked together professionally for many years. Photographs of some of my food arrangements are in his books.

Library Legacy

My mother had an extensive health library that she used as reference whenever she was called upon for nutritional advice. One day, to my great surprise and delight, she gave
me her entire collection of books. I knew the value she had placed upon these books and when I asked her why she was giving them to me she answered, “I read every book, and they drove me crazy!” I took that to mean she must have found a great deal of controversy and contradiction amongst the so-called “experts.”

I was thrilled to see that she had included Dr. Paavo Airola’s books in the gifted collection. He was at the top of the list of respected authors. Because my mom was so impressed with Dr. Airola, and I respected her knowledge about nutrition, I began to seek out ways that I could personally study with him. One day I decided to call him, and to my amazement, through my detective work I found a direct line and reached him personally. I told him that I was interested in his work because I felt that Vegetarianism was the wave of the future and morally correct due to my understanding. He asked where I gained my understanding and I explained that I understood this from my meditation. He asked if I would please come to his seminar in Montana as his guest. The seminar was packed with knowledge and facts about Vegetarianism, as well as testimonials from doctors and health professionals sharing about their experiences. I was given an A+ on the test.

When I spoke with Paavo at the end of the seminar, I asked about a teacher I could study with when I returned home. He answered, “You don’t need any other teachers.” I then said “You don’t understand, I am serious about my work in nutrition.” He said, “You don’t need any other teachers, you study with me.” After the next seminar on the West Coast, I asked Paavo to be my mentor in Nutrition and he said yes.
What impressed me so much about Dr. Airola’s work was that medical doctors very heavily endorsed him. I was pleased to note that on the back cover of his book titled Every Woman’s Book, were endorsements from seven medical doctors.

Dr. Paavo Airola gave me certification as a Nutritional Consultant. Among his tenets was the advocacy of juicing for therapeutic conditions and the recommendation of fermented dairy products such as kefir milk for digestion, as well as dairy in general. Most doctors were still recommending dairy products in those days, the years preceding the shocking findings about the harms of dairy.
Dr. Paavo Airola and Marilyn
Forced Spontaneity

In 1974, I was living in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Michael Tierra’s Garden of SanJivani, a residential School for natural healing and spiritual studies. I was asked to teach my first class in food preparation. How did I feel about this? To say I was “anxious and nervous” would have been a gross understatement. I was teaching my very first cooking class to a group of Doctors, Acupuncturists, Herbalists, etc., who probably knew more about nutrition than I did. To alleviate my shyness and insecurity, I invested a great deal of time in food and class content preparation. I knew that I had to be highly organized. As I prepped for the dishes that I would teach, I also rehearsed what I would say about the dishes, so that I could feel, if not relaxed, at least well grounded as I stepped into this brand new experience. I carefully labeled all of the prepared dishes and placed them in the refrigerator. This must have made it extra convenient for the midnight refrigerator raider. The next day, when I went into the kitchen just before class, EVERYTHING was gone except the empty, dirty containers in the sink. WOW! I was stunned. This called for instant adjustment. I adapted, immediately swung into a spontaneous cooking style and dazzled the doctors. It was a hit. In fact, that spur-of-the-moment teaching style worked so well, it is still with me today. “Look, Ma, no recipes!”

The Spa Circuit
Then my career moved on to spas: Murrietta, Cal-A-Vie, and consulting for Dr. Deepak Chopra at his new Mind/Body Center. At Cal-a-Vie, world famous spa resort, Rosie Daley (former Oprah Winfrey chef) hired me. Rosie and I had previously worked together at a restaurant in San Diego called “Basil St. Café.” She wanted me to become her sous-chef, but since I was vegan, I could not taste the animal/dairy dishes, and I had to pass on that opportunity. I developed menus and prepared meals at Cal-a-Vie spa for guests with special dietary
needs related to aller-gies and specific health problems. I lectured on the subject of natural foods, and assisted Rosie Daley at weekly spa cuisine cooking classes for their guests. I also created vegetable baskets served daily to guests at Cal-a-Vie; they were frequently photographed. “Magnificently gorgeous! You do beautiful work!” (Cal-a-Vie investor)

A Wing and a Prayer

Around 1996, I came to L.A. on a wing and a prayer and my credit card. I wanted to be “discovered” as a star in the vegan chef world and was willing to do whatever it took, money or no. My first client was Vicky, wife of the star of Victor Victoria playing on Broadway, a popular actor, Michael Nori. It was in LA that I met and catered for Howard Lyman, the ex- cattle rancher turned vegan who later got sued along with Oprah Winfrey for his expose’ about beef that he presented on her show. Julie Cromwell, wife of James Cromwell saw my catered presentation for Howard Lyman and asked if I would cater her mother’s birthday party.

A Babe with a Babe

I moved to San Diego to work with a client who was referred to me by the nutritionist at Cal-A-Vie. After working with my client for 3 months, he gave me severance pay of room and board for a month, plus $10,000. As this came to a close, I received a phone call from Julie Cromwell asking me to move in with them as their chef/assistant. Back to LA I went, becoming a live-in chef with the Cromwell’s for a period of time (until they moved). As a result of this, I was later in Christian Paer’s book, Celebrities and Their Chefs, with James Cromwell, Babe (the movie star pig), and my recipes. While in Los Angeles, I also had the opportunity to consult and cook for Julie Cromwell’s mother, Helen Beverly, a famous Jewish actress, wife of Actor, Lee J. Cobb.
Dr. Michael Klaper, known for his work in teaching vegan nutrition to doctors, nurses, and health practitioners, called me from Hawaii, to say that he was meeting with an investor in San Diego, whom he wanted to sample Vegan food, and asked if I would come out and prepare a meal for them. It was a long commute from L.A., where I was living at the time, but I was up for it! As I was about to serve the meal, in walked the investor’s girlfriend, Rue McClanahan. Rue had just come from visiting her doctor. After the meal, we began a conversation about health. She shared with me what was going on with her and I
asked if she would like my recommendations. After we spoke, she asked for my card. A couple of weeks later she called and hired me to cook three meals a day, lunch & dinner to go, while she was on the set.

Soon after she finished that movie, she moved to New York to do a play. By the way, her favorite breakfast was buckwheat and toasted pumpkin seeds and she loved Kombucha squash, blended very thick, as a dessert.
Zosa Ranch

A medical doctor and his wife owned the Zosa Ranch, a B & B where I was resident manager12. I invited Dr. Benjamin Spock and his wife, Mary Martin, to be my guests for dinner. They graciously accepted. I later heard Doctor Spock speak at a press conference given by Dr. Neal Barnard, saying, "Up until two years of age, a child should be breast-fed. No child, after the age of two, requires animal or dairy product."
Consulting with Deepak Chopra was an exciting experience for me. His Ayurvedic menu was being prepared at his new Mind/Body Center by the hotel chefs, who, to me, seemed angry and resentful about having to learn this new food preparation style that was entirely apart from their own consciousness. I pointed out that those vibrations were going into the food and recommended that he seek and hire a trained Ayurvedic chef, someone who loved that way of cooking and put that love into the food. This would create an all-around healing atmosphere for his clientele. The next thing I suggested was, since this program was in Los Angeles, with many aware, health-conscious people, that he consider whole grains, rather than refined grains, as well as organic vegetables and fruits. In the midst of our consulting, he called his secretary and told her to see that a video was prepared for the staff about food consciousness and also to start looking for an Ayurvedic chef.
Five years after the “wing-and-prayer” flight to LA, my wish to be “discovered” came true; SPA Magazine published my photo and a four-page article about me titled “Vegan Chef of the Rich and Famous” in September 2001. This was a thrill for me to see my dream up in lights so to speak. I had been a busy chef as time slid by on golden wings. Then, as I looked back, I realized there were many other facets, many other little lights on the marquee that were part of becoming successful. To me, success means helping to make a positive difference in the world, which includes less suffering for humans and animals.
I am in good health and high spirits. I have an ocean of gratitude for all that I have learned and for all the benefits this knowledge has brought to me and to others I have shared it with.
A friend of mine was going to a seminar, and I asked her to give a note to Louise Hay, asking her to call me. I had only met Louise briefly at a presentation by Deepak Chopra. It was there that I gave her my resume, which later opened the door to my consulting with Deepak. A couple of weeks after the Deepak Chopra event, Louise called me, and I invited her to lunch at Zosa Ranch. She came with a friend and I can remember jumping up and down with excitement when I saw her. She got a big kick out of that.
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