Q&A with NGI Alum Kit Wong-Khoo Posted November 13, 2017 Kit Wong-Khoo is a graduate of the Chef’s Training Program at NGI. She enrolled in the program with the intention of learning how to properly cook a health-supportive diet for her daughter, who developed several health conditions after being diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma at just two-years old. Read on to learn about her experience in the Chef’s Training Program and how she now brings her natural food cooking skills to a variety of personal clients, local companies, and children. Can you tell us a bit about your background? I have an MBA in finance, and I worked over ten years as a compliance analyst for the New York Stock Exchange. My team monitored insider trading violations. Today I am a holistic health coach, personal chef, and cooking instructor specializing in plant-based, such as vegetarian and vegan dishes. How did you become interested in food and health? When my daughter Kaitlyn was two years old (in 2005), she was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma, which turned our lives upside down. After chemotherapy, Kaitlyn was left with many health conditions, including ADHD, learning disabilities, and epilepsy. We tried many traditional medicines, which left terrible side effects. Out of this experience, I became interested in doing what I could to help my daughter and enrolled in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a holistic health coach. That was in 2013. Out of this training, I changed the way we ate, which started having a positive effect on Kaitlyn’s health, in combination with supplements and many alternative treatments. What made you attend Chef’s Training Program at NGI? Kaitlyn’s epilepsy was another huge life-changing event for us. She was taking so many medications, seeing so many neurologists, and nothing was helping. Through my research I discovered the ketogenic diet, but was not getting support from the medical practitioners in terms of getting Kaitlyn on this regimen. I decided to investigate NGI after my friend, another natural foods chef, told me about it. I wanted to become better informed and learn how to prepare the meals for the ketogenic diet myself, rather than use the prepackaged–and more processed–foods available on the market. Ultimately, my daughter was my reason and inspiration to attend NGI. I am continuously setting an example for her to follow: that we can be successful in every good decision in our life, as long as we work hard and with passion. We don’t “settle for less”. How was your experience? It was wonderful! I attended the part-time program on Wednesdays from 6-10pm and Saturdays from 9am-6pm. It took almost one year to complete the training. I love the school, especially the fact that the menus are so heavily plant-based, using local and seasonal ingredients that are so fresh. Plus, the training really helped me identify the best foods within the different groups my daughter needed: the best fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in this extremely restrictive diet. I was able to immediately use the training in her healing, developing a broader range of nutritious dishes within the confines of the diet that she could enjoy and therefore not feel deprived. I’m so grateful. What was it like to juggle family, schedule, and culinary school? The part-time program was great; it is really designed for busy people and those seeking a career change. There is no way I could have attended full time with two children at home. The support of my family was also very helpful to me on the days or evenings when I was in class. Since graduating from NGI, you have focused on helping people with health challenges, especially cancer patients and survivors. How has this been a rewarding experience for you? Last year, my then 89-year-old mother was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. I went to Hong Kong to help her, again, using the training I received at NGI. She’s doing great and we celebrated her 90th birthday recently. As a personal chef, I serve a broad range of clients; not all have health challenges but they all want to eat a better, more balanced, and cleaner diet. Some are vegetarian, others vegan; and all are on journeys to a healthier lifestyle. I am honored to play a part in their journeys and am so glad I can use the training to help all my clients. How do you hope to continue your mission of helping others eat healthy? In addition to my work as a personal chef, I bring my work out to the wider community in many ways. I lead cooking classes once a month for groups which bring together couples, families, and a variety of adults, all learning better nutrition and how to create delicious meals. I will be broadening this program by conducting natural cooking classes for adults at a local high school this year. I help non-profits raise funds by offering certificates for vegetarian dinners that the organizations can auction; this helps them raise money while also raising awareness of healthy eating. In addition to local charities, I have worked with more high-visibility organizations including St. Jude’s Hospital and American Cancer Society. Another way I advocate for healthy eating is by speaking to local companies and groups. For example, I do corporate wellness programs to help companies promote a healthier lifestyle among employees. I also work with psychotherapists who have young adults and teens as their clients. I do cooking classes for these clients, which helps them build their self-esteem as well as educate them on making good food choices to support their overall well-being. Another way I reach young people is through my daughter’s school. She attends a special needs program and I occasionally lead a cooking class there for her class. We prepare lunch for the staff and I teach a lesson around the meal. The students are learning to do something good for themselves and others, which has a lasting, positive effect (and I get the bonus of spending some extra time with my daughter in her class). Can you share your favorite go-to, easy fall recipe right now? VEGAN ZUCCHINI LASAGNA (Yield: 6 servings) Ingredients: 3 medium zucchinis, thinly sliced with a mandolin or substitute eggplant 11/2 cups tomato sauce 14 oz. firm tofu 2 teaspoons salt, plus extra for the zucchini 2 teaspoons onion powder 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon all spice 1 cup shredded vegan cheese Fresh basil for garnish Procedures: Turn the oven on 400F. Spread the sliced zucchini out on a large plate and sprinkle liberally with salt. Let sit for a half an hour to bring the moisture out of the zucchini. Mash the tofu with the onion powder, garlic powder, and all spice, then set aside. Wipe all moisture off the zucchini, place on a baking tray, and place on the center oven rack. Cook zucchini for 10 minutes. Take out zucchini, turn the oven to 375F, and layer ½ cup tomato sauce into the bottom of an 8-inch square pan. Cover the sauce with a layer of zucchini, then spread 1 1/3 cup of the tofu mixture over the zucchini layer. Add 1 cup sauce, then another zucchini layer, then 1 1/3 cup more tofu. Cover with the final cup of sauce, another zucchini layer, and finally cover everything with the vegan cheese. Bake on the center rack 40 minutes, then turn oven off. Keep the oven door closed and let sit in the oven an additional 10 minutes. Serve immediately with additional vegan cheese and fresh basil. Leftovers keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.