When you first meet Jenny Teresi, you can’t help but be captivated by her genuine kindness and friendly demeanor. This petite, mother of two grown daughters and grandmother to one adorable grandson, has a day job overseeing credentialing for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. Wanting to approach the aging process in an educated manner, she has turned her interest with healthy living in to a venture that is making a difference not only for herself, but for other like-minded individuals. Chef Jenny Teresi runs a Raw Food Business, Rawmazing Food, providing instruction and catering services based on the preparation of whole, living foods.
What set you on your path to your venture? I was first introduced to raw vegan cuisine at the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in Fort Bragg, California in 2007. It was “love at first bite.” I was so inspired that I returned to complete the Associate Chef and Instructor certification in 2008. What began as a weekend getaway quickly evolved into a whole new adventure, a change in lifestyle, and a part-time side business. Since receiving chef and instructor training, I have conducted public talks, created demonstrations, taught classes, catered events, and provided individual consultations to those seeking to optimize their nutrition while continuing to enjoy their food. My business partner and I offer monthly classes to teach people how to make raw vegan food delicious. It is more than salad and carrot sticks!
What skills/talents do you have that compliment your venture? A lifelong interest in health and nutrition, love of learning and sharing knowledge with others, and love of people. I grew up in Idaho with grandparents who grew almost all of their own food. As a kid, we often ate meals directly from the garden. That lifestyle is pretty much gone, especially in urban areas such as Los Angeles, but the obvious benefits of that lifestyle are more obvious to me today than when I was a kid. I think my grandparents would be surprised that anyone needed to learn about eating fruits and vegetables. Still, it is truly gratifying when people share with me stories of how knowledge I’ve channeled their way has changed their lives.
What fears did you have getting started? The same fears I have now. Can I overcome time constraints of full-time employment, family, and other obligations to successfully grow a business? Building a “side-business” is very challenging.
What was involved in getting started? Becoming a certified chef and instructor, setting up a DBA (Doing Business As), purchasing needed equipment, finding a classrooom/kitchen, and promoting and marketing my services.
What was your start up costs? What are your ongoing costs? Becoming certified as an Associate Chef and Instructor through Living Light cost approximately $5,000 and took almost a year. In the first two years, I spent about the same amount again in buying equipment, promoting classes, and taking additional chef training such as raw pastry classes. Ongoing costs consist mostly of promotion, insurance, licenses, food, class supplies, and paying those who help me with the classes.
How do yo get the word out about your venture? I started with small groups of no more than four in my home. My initial clients came through word of mouth. The owners of a local organic market allowed me to give free demonstrations and talk. I advertised in the local paper, which led to a human interest story featuring Rawmazing Food. This exposure led to an invitation to speak at a local retirement community and the Claremont Colleges. In addition to the formal promotional activities, I shamelessly promoted my new venture by talking to everyone I knew. I handed out business cards. I printed flyers to post at the local coffee shops and grocery stores. I also joined organizations such as the Claremont Wellness Professionals. I later developed a website, www.rawmazingfood.com, to promote classes and allow people to book online.
How much tome a week do you spend on your venture? Not enough! But it is some time almost every day– even if it is just an hour. Prepping for classes is very time consuming. Classes take a minimum of two solid days of work. Right now, I do classes once a month. So overall, I would say I spend between 10 and 15 hours a week working on Rawmazing Food.
What have you learned along the way? This venture has taught me numerous interesting things about myself and others related to nutrition, diet, the food industry, global health issues, and how people feel about food. Food issues have been at the forefront of our national discussion since 9/11. More and more people want to know where their food is grown and what has been done to it before it reaches them. There is also a movement toward eating locally for environmental and sustainability reasons. It’s a fascinating time to be involved in teaching and talking about food choices.
I have also learned that people are very sensitive about what they eat. They sometimes become defensive when discussing alternative diets. I always try to reassure people that I do not judge people by what they eat. I am here only to offer information abut a particular type of cuisine. I feel what I do is similar to someone offering to teach you about French or Italian cuisine. I’m not trying to convince people to become gourmet raw vegans, any more than a French chef is trying to teach people to become French. What you eat is a personal choice. Eating primarily whole living food is a cuisine not a religion for me. I’m happy when people make food choices that makes sense for them. We’re all different.
What do you like best about your venture? The good feeling that follows a successful class! And the satisfaction I experience when people share stories of improved health as a result of incorporating more fresh food into to their diets. I’ve discovered that even one or two changes in a person’s diet can make a huge difference.
What do you see for you and your venture in the future? This venture has led me to consider a second career in the area of community and global health. I also plan to continue to share what I know about the whole, living food cuisine and its health benefits with others. Meaning, I am going to continue telling this story to anyone who will listen.
You can contact Chef Jenny at Rawmazingfood@gmail.com