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"The road goes ever on and on"; Our first trip to Esalen

“It is easiest to live with a decision if it is based on an earnest sense of right and wrong”

When I started this job in the beginning of the New Year I had no idea how far reaching and life changing the values, themes, and ideas that are taught to our students are. Each day I interact with our students and staff I am blown away by how the Lightfoot curriculum addresses not only the students when they are in the classroom, but outside in the “real world” as well. Recently the students and staff of Lightfoot were lucky enough to experience the Lightfoot themes put into praxis on an entire new level. This experience allowed our students to see what happens when a core set of whole-systems values are applied to an entire community.

After a drive down highway 1 our van full of sleepy eyed students pulled into the grounds at Esalen; though the 6am start time of our trip had been rough for the students they all were very excited to see what was going to happen at Esalen. What we were allowed to experience was a place where the goals and values of Lightfoot were put into action on an entirely new level.

As we started the day the students were introduced to the staff of Esalen who would be guiding us along during our time at their facility. The staff members included Shirley Ward, Noel Vietor who is the Farm and Garden Coordinator, and all the wonderful staff and interns who help make Esalen the place it is. Along with these staff members the students also worked with Darren Huckle L.Ac. learning about edible herbs that can be grown in a home garden as well as guiding the students in a Chi-Gong session. One of the first things that we did as a group was a mindfulness check in with everyone; this was not a new idea for the students but the way in which these check ins are used by Esalen were very new. Esalen allots 25% of their workweek for mindfulness practices, this generally includes short meditations and group check ins throughout the day.  It may also include a yoga or Thai Chi session or Gestault Communication lesson.  These check ins are used by everyone at Esalen throughout the entire day to help keep all staff and interns present for how they and their fellow members are mentally/emotionally feeling during the day, and letting that set the structure of the days work intentions/tasks.

Moving onto the smaller of the two farms that the staff uses to supply the meals for Esalen, the students started to learn more about the farming practices that Esalen incorporates. This idea of eating the food that was grown on site, harvested by your friends or co-workers hands, and then serving it to everyone was something else that our students had done in the past in our own agriculture class, but again it was done in a wholly different was than previously experienced. The students were broken up into small groups and shown different aspects of each part in the small farm by different members of the Esalen staff; each group being shown new ways to look at the food that they were gathering and preparing for lunch.

Following lunch the staff and students again had a check in; for many of the students this showed them that the staff of Esalen “walks the walk” all the time. From the farm the students were brought to a large field with an amazing view of the Big Sur coastline and engaged in a meditation exercise/history lesson about the area that Esalen now occupies. For the students this was again a new level of what they experience in Lightfoot as well as Delta. It is not often in many schools that students are given the opportunity to not only become aware of where they are physically and mentally, but also told the history that they are engaging in when they are present in that place.

Even though I have only been a part of Lightfoot for a short time, I can honestly say that I have never seen the students so completely engaged, mentally, physically, emotionally, as they were during our entire time at Esalen. During the drive back to Santa Cruz the talk was not on plans for the night, how tired they were, but on how good they felt and when the next trip was.  Several students are interested in interning at Esalen when they graduate.

Our next trip to Esalen is May 2nd, where we will not only harvest again from the farm, but will work with Esalen’s head chef, Phillip Burres prepping food for the Esalen dining hall.  Our third visit is slated to incorporate more harvesting, food prep, and serving a farm-to-table dinner on the Esalen cliffs over looking the Pacific.

Most important is a huge thank you to Esalen for having us in their Community Outreach program and we all look forward to our next experience in Esalen.


All Things New this SPRING!

Well it’s been a minute since our last update, and there is a lot of new things going on in LIGHTFOOT to share. We spent the winter doing some serious soul searching and number crunching, and have arrived at a strategy that we think will keep us on track in our quest to secure a restaurant and the long-term viability of the business and the Academy.  Have a look at all the NEW in LIGHTFOOT this spring: 


Enter LIGHTFOOT WHOLESALE.  As you all know we’ve had products in all the local Lulu's and Coffee Cat shops, and New Leaf markets, namely our gluten free muffins, sweet potato pies and smoked pulled pork and apple meat pies.  Well, we’ve bumped up the WHOLESALE menu to a 13-item product line of bakery and quick serve items.  Currently we are seeking new accounts locally and in the South Bay.  In order to put all our focus into WHOLESALE, we have decided to host only three (3) Supper Club events this spring as fundraisers for the Academy, community builders and work experience for our teens.  We've even put a hold on catering until the early summer - in order to do our best job with WHOLESALE. We are hoping  our new strategy will prove LIGHTFOOT as a profitable business and therefore a more attractive investment for potential restaurant backers - while still delivering delicious central coast soul food to our customers.  Although we know hands-on customer service in the restaurant environment is still the best training ground for our teens gaining entry-level skills, we are thinking up some creative ways to weave students into the WHOLESALE process, and hope to be offering our teens paid positions in product development in the coming months.   Our WHOLESALE menu is listed on the website, we will be building out on-line ordering in the coming weeks!   We’ll also be unveiling an updated Lightfoot LOGO to go with our product line, we’re currently working with Studio Holladay – keep an eye out for the new look!


So what is going to happen to our weekly LIGHTFOOT SUPPER CLUB dinners – they were so much fun?  We think you will forgive us for the strategy change when you see what we’ve got planned.  LIGHTFOOT has paired up with local green aficionado’s Greenspace, to host two formal fundraising dinners this spring, March 27 and April 30.  Greenspace is donating the use of their space for the dinners in an effort to build community and help Lightfoot meet its fundraising goals, so please, make sure to visit Greenspace and thank them for their tremendous support!  Our last fundraiser will be a dinner + dancing celebration at the Portuguese Hall on May 25th with special guest bands Flor de Cana and Aza!!  So get your friends together and get your tickets, proceeds from all events go directly to the LIGHTFOOT Academy.   All SUPPER CLUB information is located on our home page and under the events page on our website:



What about the ACADEMY, anything new there?  Boy, has it been an exciting last few months for our new ACADEMY.  As always we are eternally grateful to Delta High School, our fiscal agent and ACADEMY collaborator, for providing us the opportunity to institute this new partnership in business and education.  Without Delta and the vision of Principal Mary Gaukel, LIGHTFOOT would look very different. Some of the great ACADEMY news: 

  • We were able to hire an ACADEMY Director of Education, Michael Mihalik!  Mike has been working with the ACADEMY now for two months, and already he has added many improvements to how we do things and the quality of services to kids.  We are thrilled to have Mike with us as yet another example of apprenticeship based learning theory in action, surrounding kids with trustworthy innovative adults.  Welcome Mike! 
  • A HUGE thank you to the Santa Cruz County Health and Human Services Department – as we were awarded a 15-person passenger van last week in their non-profit bid for surplus vehicles.  We have been in desperate need of a transport vehicle for students; being awarded the van was both a massive surprise and a huge relief.  
  • Another HUGE thank you to Sally and Amy at Village Yoga of Santa Cruz, as they continue to underwrite our wellness curriculum, teaching yoga and mindfulness to our students, at no cost to the ACADEMY.  Thank you Village Yoga! 
  • Linda Ozaki, owner of Wink Photography and the lovely wife of our head Chef Loren Ozaki, has been documenting LIGHTFOOT SUPPER CLUBS since last spring.  Currently we are designing a photography class for the fall of 2012 that will result in a student-led photojournalistic book of LIGHTFOOT and all things teen and food related.   Look for a kick-starter campaign in the coming months to help us get this part of our elective series funded! A huge thank you to Linda for all her expertise and generosity in working with LIGHTFOOT documentation!  
  • New collaborators ESALEN!  We are absolutely thrilled to announce Esalen of Big Sur has asked LIGHTFOOT to be part of their community outreach programming.  LIGHTFOOT students will be participating in three (3) different work days at Esalen on the farm, in their kitchen, and finally by preparing and serving a farm-to-table dinner on the Esalen cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  LIGHTFOOT students will not only be immersed in the apprenticeship work days at Esalen, learning how a sustainable focused organization works, but will also be participating in Esalen’s mindfulness practice.  LIGHTFOOT has begun incorporating mindfulness practices into our ACADEMY classes and protocol, but we will no doubt learn volumes from the Esalen masters.  A tremendous thank you to Esalen, this will definitely be a pivotal life experience for our teens! 


So you can see, it’s been a very busy winter for LIGHTFOOT.  In the middle of all of our development strides, we continue to provide sustainable professional development and life-skills development to our teens, four (4) days a week.  A big enough thank you cannot be had for all our sponsors and supporters.  However, the biggest thank you of all goes out to our teachers, Loren, Austin, Mike, Amy, Sally and Carmen, and our students – for continuing to show up for themselves and each other.  Our ‘culture of achievement’ has quickly turned into a family like no other.  If this past winter and all the focus and forward movement is indicative of what is to come – LIGHTFOOT is poised to make a difference in a lot of lives.  

In closing, thank you for supporting LIGHTFOOT.  We hope to see you at one of our events this spring enjoying yourself, eating, dancing, and being part of the magic that is shaping the futures of our youth and our planet.


With tremendous appreciation,

 Carmen & the LIGHTFOOT Team


Supper Club y Mas


Join us this Friday night at DIG Gardens Nursery for our 3rd dinner of the Season.  Loren, Austin and the Kids are cooking up a Korean Soul Food menu, have a look below.  I'm really looking forward to Austin'swheat-less chocolate torte with Chipotle Ganache... So get your ticket today, there are some seats left!  Click SUPPER CLUB TIX to reserve your seat at the table.  New this week, out of tremendous gratitude for your support - as we get this spaceship off the ground - we're giving away two (2) door prizes at every dinner!!  One lucky guest will take home a custom center piece made by the design, award winning team at DIG Gardensand one guest will receive a ticket to next weeks dinner!  

If you can't make it this week, no worries, come back and eat with us another time.  Next Friday, October 28th, we'll be getting our Halloween on with aHARVEST MOON menu, special DIG design, and a costume contests!  Tickets to all our dinners are available on our website, menu's are posted a week to two in advance.  


Busy week as usual at Lightfoot, classes, catering and wholesale moving right along.  We've had a couple interesting highlights this week that't we'd like to share.  First, Loren, Linda and I all were invited to Esalen in Big Sur for a farm-to-table dinner on their farm - honoring their graduating farm apprentices and a few key supporters.  The three of us got to be 'on the other side of the table' as guests, at what was one of the most magical dinners I've ever attended.  The food was straight from the farm and absolutely delicious, prepared and served with so much thoughtfulness.  The guests and honorees were simply lovely.  We are excited to report we are working on an Esalen + Lightfoot collaboration, that will hopefully involve ongoing weekend seminars on-site at Esalen for our students.  We'll be working  with Esalen staff to integrate their rich process for communication and whole-systems sustainability into the Lightfoot curriculum and protocols.  Needless to say, we are honored and thrilled and will be reporting out more news as the details take shape.  

Next thing to report this week, a great article in the Sentinel on Lightfoot! "Lightfoot's Charges Serve Up 'Soul Food' at DIG Gardens", by Gretchen Wegrich; a really nicely written piece Ms Wegrich, thank you!  

Lastly, we want to thank Mary Gaukel and the Delta Charter High School staff, for not only all that they do - but for inviting Lightfoot to the Your Future is Our Business YFIOB, luncheon this past Wednesday.  We sat in the Coconut Grove banquet hall room overlooking the beach and the wharf, it was a perfect Santa Cruz day.  The room was filled with educators, administrators, students and business people - all there to celebrate the good work being done by this important organization.  YFIOB is a 30yr old organization in town that links local teens with positive mentors and internships from the local business community via ROP programs and supplemental programs like Lightfoot.  We were once again honored, much like at Esalen, to be in the company of so many people passionate and  positively focused on solutions.  Thank you Delta!



occupy wall st

So our weekly plugs are all kinda summed up in this picture circulating around Facebook.  This Fall, be part of the solution by keeping your dollars local and thoughtful. Lightfoot is part of a thriving local economy made up of many tenacious small businesses.  Support Lightfoot and other local businesses and organizations this year, as we support the people that help make Santa Cruz the diverse and interesting place it is.   Not to mention, there is known correlation between the health of any given community, and the percentage of local ownership in business and properties.  So think of Lightfoot this Fall and Winter season; our TIX make great gift ideas, Supper Clubs can be your company holiday party or birthday destination, and we are available for private catering.  Not to mention we have jams, chutneys and syrups for sale at our SUPPER CLUB dinners!    For those looking for an 'impact-giving' gift idea (think of it as carbon offsetting for your soul;)  we are able to receive 501(c)(3) donations  that can be directly applied to sponsoring a Lightfoot Student, or specific programming areas of your choice.    Contact, us anytime for more details  

And now, what you've been waiting for, check out the Supper Club menu and get your tickets!


Faith and Curiosity, and Really Good Food.

It's two nights before our next Supper Club, and it would be great to say that the reservations are full, seats are filled to capacity at 60 guests, and it's smooth sailing.  But that is not the truth. The truth is, we are still a struggling start-up, woefully under funded and awaiting investors for our restaurant.  Reservations are not filled to capacity and worry plagues me at times as to how we will pay our purveyors, or staff and the endless stream of government and overhead expenses.  Still we carry on.  How is it that we can offer services to 20
 teens: yoga, sustainable agriculture, kitchen classes, product development and sustainable professional development - without a dime, a van or any assistance at all from the educational powers that be.  All of this takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and money.  Primarily, it has been faith in our kids, our product, our customers, our staff, our teachers and a handful of generous sponsors, that has kept us moving forward. Secondly, curiosity, in place of stress, as to how the next phase will unfold.   Of course we have some strategies in place, and PEOPLE working on things... but there nev seems to be enough time, staff or resource. Amazingly, however, the next step in Lightfoot's evolution is continually revealed and provided for. 

Why/how do I think this is possible.  Sometimes, when caught up in managing the day to day details, it's hard to see.  But when I stop in the middle of a busy week and have a look at the people, the dedication, the tenacity of our students to be something different than stereotypes dictate - I understand.  If you could follow me around all week, to five classes, different sites, the Supper Clubs, you'd see it too.  There is something much bigger going on here than what most people see at face value.  We are not just a vocational training program.  We are not just a culinary program.  We are change agents - each an every one of us involved.  We believe there is a better way for humans to work, learn, eat, balance, thrive; and we are willing to invest a lot of sweat and tears to make it to the next level.  Our students and our staff show up for themselves every day, and the hope that a generation of informed, thriving individuals can make some sort of difference in bringing balance to this world. It seems lofty I know, but that is what we are up to.  We are committed to sourcing locally and supporting small, organic farms.  We are committed to a values-driven mission statement that values the environment and people as much as profit. We are committed to seeing each student as a viable, thriving individual.  We are committed to paying livable wages and we are committed to whole-systems education.  Our students, in very short order, are committed to each other, the team and most importantly themselves.  

I won't walk you through the stories of each student, but suffice it to say they each face unique and steep challenges, that we as adults would have a hard time rising above.  And there is no silver bullet here, no piece of paper that says they are complete, no formula for success, no quick way to finish.  There is hard work, playfulness, and day by day commitment to follow a truth that says, I am worthy of being all that I came here to be - regardless of where I come from, what I've done so far, or what I am labeled as.  This translates into two hour yoga classes where sometimes all the student can do is stand and hold on to the wall.  Running from Delta class to catch busses to Lightfoot classes, only to be told by the bus driver the bus is full - waiting for another bus or walking or skateboarding up to five miles to make it to Lightoot.  Making it through shifts in the face of major personal tragedies and hardships. Attending five classes a week but having to wait to work Supper Clubs because there are not enough spots on the staff to take all the students.  Yet they keep showing up. 

Hopefully all of this will work, and we will one day have our own restaurant with plenty of shifts for a full Academy of 60 students as well as a core of full time professionals.  Hopefully one day we will have dialed in the business and educational protocol and are able to upscale nationally to offer our program to some of the 14 million or so at-risk teens in the nation. Hopefully, one day our nation will answer with integrity and thoughtfulness and resource - the question, 'Why do we educate kids".  Hopefully YOU will come join us for dinner, a good time and good food, and and tell your friends about Lightfoot so we can broaden our base of support.  Hopefully.  In the meantime I am thankful for everysingle person who has helped Lightfoot along the way. I maintain faith and curiosity as to how it will all unfold, and  I ask you to join us, and be part of the solution. 

 With Deep Appreciation,





End of Summer Lightfoot Update! Fall Supper Club Series, Academy Launch, read on...  


Well the end of the summer is drawing near and we at Lightfoot are gearing up for a very busy and exciting Fall.  We can't wait for the mouth-watering start to our second year of  Supper Club Dinners featuring Lightfoot Chef Loren Ozaki, in the beautiful Dig Gardens Nursery. We are also SUPER excited to welcome 20 new student-apprentices into the Lightfoot Academy, whom we will get to have for three years!  The Academy is steeped in rich collaborations with new and founding businesses, and we continue to offer our our teens a curriculum rich in Rigor, Relevance and Relationship.  More on the Academy soon...


The summer hasn't been all planning however.  This July we took our first foray into the whole sale business and launched our own yummy line of gluten-free baked items. We are currently carrying a savory scone and a banana nut muffin; which have been selling out at all 3 Lulu’s Coffee Shop locations, as well as Coffee Cat in Scotts Valley, and the Capitola, Westside and Pacific Ave New Leaf Market locations.  Make sure to grab a scone or a muffin soon - we are proud to say THEY DON'T TASTE GLUTEN-FREE, THEY JUST TASTE GOOD. 


Now - Get ready to party! Starting Friday, September 30th,  Lightfoot Supper Club and DIG Gardens will be the place to be.  Every Friday night we will be serving up the best in Central Coast Soul Food at an affordable price, served family style by our teen apprentices.  We are thrilled to be continuing our partnership with DIG Gardens, you couldn't ask for a more beautiful backdrop for dinner!  But the wonderfulness doesn't stop there.  Dig is a premiere Urban Renewal Garden site and very much mission-aligned with Lightfoot.  Come early for dinner and spend some time checking out their truly unique and exotic plants, accessories, and books, as well as their full workshop and guest speaker schedule. 


Supper Club dates are listed on our website home page and linked directly to our reservations page.  Make sure to get your tickets early, as we often sell out!  While you are on the website don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to receive updates about the Academy and Food.  And of course follow us on facebook and twitter for day to day juicy information, pictures and video.  


Lastly, as the Harvest and Holiday Season draws near, book your party dates early with Lightfoot - we offer full catering and event planning services.  We've catered some pretty amazing events of late and we'd be happy to share with you our reviews and services.  Keep in mind, when you hire Lightfoot you not only will be getting exceptional food, service and style - but you also get to feel good knowing your dollars are helping support local sustainable vocational training for teens.  


Well that's it for now, there's still much to do before the start of school.  As always, thank you for supporting Lightfoot and our teens, we could not do what we do if it weren't for you.   We look forward to seeing you at a Supper Club dinner this fall, and we hope your last days of summer are filled with good times, good food and good people.  


Much love and appreciation,

Carmen, Loren and the Lightfoot Team