February 17, 2005
Raw Foods Chef School and Deli Come to Company Store
by Frank Hartzell
Fort Bragg’s 19th century lumbering past will soon become the backdrop for a trendy, 21st century way to eat and cook vegetarian foods.
In early May, a downstairs raw foods deli and upstairs raw foods chef school will be launched as the Living Light Center.
The center will occupy 5,000 square feet of the old Union Lumber Company Store on Main Street.
The idea behind raw food is that cooking food removes healthy enzymes. Raw foods are soaked, dehydrated and sometime served warm to become healthy gourmet foods in the hands of trained chefs.
Chef Cherie Soria, who owns the business with her partner, Dan Ladermann, described a dizzying array of foods that visiting chefs will learn to prepare. She said it amounted to just about any gourmet food that can be prepared cooked.
“No nobody would ever know the food was not cooked,” she said.
Soria promises, “all (certified) organic, all vegan, all raw and all fresh,” at the deli, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will serve gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner delights.
Chili Colorado, enchiladas, smoothies, and even ice cream will be served, all without animal products or cooking.
The couple had been searching for a location to purchase but became enchanted instead with the Company Store.
Soria said three commercial kitchens are being installed, although none have ovens or stoves. She said the Institute will employ 20 to 25 people and bring in batches of up to 30 students from around the world. There will be weekend training available and 4-to 5-week sessions for students.
Previously, Soria had led training seminars at conference centers such as Harbin Hot Springs in Middletown. The historic lumber company building in the couple’s hometown looked ideal as a training headquarters. They anticipate doubling the size of their staff to about two dozen employees.
“We are looking forward to bringing this consciousness to the Mendocino Coast area, already a place where the consciousness is high about organic and vegetarian foods,” said Ladermann.
He said it was another step for a community that was on the cutting edge with actions such as banning genetically modified foods.
Celebrity advocates of gourmet raw foods, such as actor Woody Harrelson and model Carol Alt, have added to the recent pizzazz of the raw foods diet.
Raw foods proponents insist it is not a fad, but harkens back to the way mankind ate food for millenia—before fire.
Many books have been written detailing the health benefits of eating raw foods, including two books by Soria.
The institute will teach food preparation, catering and food design classes. Living Light students will come from as far away as Japan and Europe.
Nutritionist Cathy Wong, in a critique of the diet online, said the only side effect was detoxification the body can endure when switching away from cooked food.
Wong reported that critics say the fact that enzymes are removed during cooking is irrelevant, because the body uses its own enzymes.
The new Living Light Center will have its grand opening of the store and the deli on May 6. The inaugural culinary class, Fundamentals of Living Foods, will be May 20-22.
Inside The Company Store the Living Light Center will join; the Mendocino Cookie Company, Reynolds Rustic, Music Merchant, Navarro River Knits, the Jewelry and Gift Company, Mendo Bistro, the Station House Cigar Shop, Curves, Ocean Waves Salon and Spa Care Plus.
In the rear of the Company Store across from the Mendocino Cookie Company kitchens, Autumn and Jess Stuckey are converting a 2,700-square foot space into Bamboo Garden Spa which will offer massage and wellness programs.
Moving downstairs and occupying front and center in the Company Store will be Candies by the Sea, which reopened on Tuesday.
Candies by the Sea owner Denis Aaron said he didn’t think the raw food deli and school would greatly increase foot traffic. He said students would likely only shop at other stores during their first couple of days.
The candy store also has a large selection of stuffed animals, and replaces A House in the Country, which moved to 337 Franklin St.
Cooking Up Ideas was moving out of the Company Store in early February, to move to another restored historic mall, The Depot.
“We have had two good years in this space. It is time for us to move to a little bigger space,” said Cooking Up Ideas owner Michael Rahm.
Rahm said the Depot has more foot traffic and he hopes, a fun environment.
The Union Lumber Company constructed a two-story company store in 1887 at the present location, Redwood and Main streets, according to a brochure offered by the building’s owners.
The present building on Main Street dates from 1912, once providing groceries and all needed products to the town. Built with extravagant amounts of redwood, including a checkerboard of massive main beams inside and Corinthian columns outside, the Company Store was always at the heart of Fort Bragg.
After Daly’s Department store left in 1995, the building was acquired by two Huboldt County men, David Figueredo and Rob Bode, who restored the building. It reopened in 1998 as a mall.
Georgia Pacific donated black and white photographs depicting the glory days of timber chopping, which along with old photos of commercial fishing, grace the walls both upstairs and downstairs.
Tenants interviewed said they loved the historic setting, despite some leaks and periods of low tenancy.
Jeri Barrett, owner of the Station House Cigar Shop, a tenant since the launch, believes business may be now improving after a slump.
“I still meet people from Fort Bragg who have never been inside the Company Store since it reopened (as a mall). They come in and are amazed,” she said.