Instructor Bios PDF Print E-mail

Antonella Aguilera-Ruiz
Dr. Aguilera-Ruiz received her naturopathic doctorate degree (ND) at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about nutrition and preparing tasty food that creates long term wellness. Her private practice is in Placerville, CA at The Smith Flat House where she works with people to seek out and remove the root cause of disease on the path to improved health and vitality.

Sawako Ama
Sawako was born and raised in a Buddhist temple in southern Japan. She always liked helping her mother cook for people in the temple, and cooking is still her favorite way to build community. Her journey studying Japanese folk medicine and foods for healing started when she was at university in Kyoto, Japan. She has been a consultant for a natural food store, owns her own catering business and is a former head chef at the Rudolph Steiner College. She started the “Earth Kitchen” in 2008 which offers organic vegetarian cooking classes to introduce the art of Japanese cuisine, specializing in fermented foods.

Susan Brown
Susan Brown is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), freelance wine writer and blogger living in East Sacramento. As a long-time wine enthusiast she has taken courses through UC Davis and the Society of Wine Educators and has read volumes on wine tasting and wine education. Combining her passion for wine and 10 years of experience in the field of education, Susan now enjoys sharing her knowledge with those interested in furthering their understanding of wine. Blogging at, she provides her readers with reviews, recommendations, and anecdotes on all things wine.

Meredith Brungess
Meredith has worked at the Co-op off and on for over five years - most lovingly in the Wellness department. She started studying magic in the early 1990's and became a member of "Sisters of the Moon," a Circle of women dedicated to working Goddess Earth Magic together and creating seasonal rituals for the public. Since then, she's continued as a solo practitioner, creating and selling handmade magical oils and sprays and honoring the traditions of the seasons with friends and family. She is a licensed Ministress performing weddings and handfastings, and a crafter of corn jewelry and art.

William Burg
Historian William Burg is the author of Sacramento's Streetcars, Sacramento's Southside Park, Then and Now: Sacramento and the forthcoming K Street: The Street Where Sacramento Was Born. He writes for Midtown Monthly Magazine, is vice-president of Sacramento County Historical Society, and a resident of Midtown.

Candis Cantin
Candis Cantin is the founder of the Evergreen Herb Garden and the School of Integrative Herbology in Placerville, where she offers apprenticeship programs throughout the year. She has over 25 years practical experience as a counselor and teacher of holistic lifestyle principles.

Marga den Hoed
Marga has lifetime experience with Macrobiotic and vegan foods. A Macrobiotic diet is mostly vegan (except occasional fish), emphasizing traditional Japanese and Chinese fermented products (miso, shoyu, umeboshi, etc), and incorporates the theory of yin and yang to classify foods and help us balance our diets accordingly. Marga and her husband Matt raise their four children on a 2.6 acre farm in Orangevale, working to make the farm a functioning market farm, as well as a hub for food and garden education.

Bella Dreizler
Bella Dreizler is a physical therapist with a specialty in orthopedic manual therapy, providing professional service in Sacramento more than 40 years. Her vision of healthcare delivery has broadened over those years and her brand of movement medicine also includes group classes in yoga and 5Rhythms, a dancing meditation. She brings body wisdom infused with heart and soul to the treatment table, the dance floor and the yoga mat. For more information about Bella Dreizler’s work, visit

Shankari Easwaran
Shankari Easwaran is a food aficionado who would love to pass on her family recipes to you. She offers fun cooking classes and caters parties and weekly meals. Her goal is to make you love Indian food as much as she does and eliminate the myth of curry. In addition to the cooking lesson, you will also learn a little about the province she hails from.

Dionisio and Terese Esperas
Dionisio and Terese Esperas are the owners of A Healthy Kitchen, a business specializing in private cooking classes and demonstrations, interactive dinner parties, and personal chef services. Please visit for further information.

Brian Fishback, BD Ranch & Apiaries
Brian Fishback started keeping bees in 2008 at his ranch in Wilton, CA; what started out as a hobby quickly turned into a passion. His first year of keeping bees was a rough one, with 40% losses due to colony collapse disorder (CCD), but he was determined to raise bees successfully without having to use harsh chemicals to treat them. He took classes, attended university lectures, and volunteered at the Hary H. Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis for three years. Today with just over 100 hives (40 at Soil Born Farms), Brian’s losses are in the 5% margin.

Kat Fleming
Kat’s lifelong passion for alternative medicine and natural remedies progressed into a study of the therapeutic properties of essential oils after a friend introduced her to them in 2004. Kat has since held numerous essential oil workshops on the topics of emotional balance, pregnancy, skin care, meditation, pain reduction, immune health, digestive health, cleansing and cooking. In 2010, Kat was invited to host a clinic on “Stress-Reducing Essential Oils” for the employees at the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Lori Friedli
Lori has been with Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op for 20 years. In 2000, she was instrumental in creating the cheese department by bringing in artisan cheeses both local and imported. Lori now oversees the Cooking School in the Community Learning Center at the Co-op. Her first love is still cheese, and she is passionate about the organic local foods she gets to work with every day which inspire her to cook for her family and friends.

Alicia Funk
Alicia Funk first learned plant-based medicine in 1990 from an indigenous grandmother in Ecuador’s rainforest. She received her MBA in entrepreneurship and has 20 years of expertise in the field of natural living and wellness. Funk is the co-author of Living Wild—Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of the Sierra Nevada and is the editor of six books, including The Botanical Safety Handbook, Herbal Medicine and The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. She lives off-the-grid with her husband and their three children.

Ame Harrington
Ame is a local chef who is driven to support sustainable local farms & dairies by cooking regional foods with Mediterranean influences. Her background includes time spent as the kitchen manager at the Co-op’s store in Elk Grove and as the chef at L Wine Lounge. Now Ame has started AME – Mean Eats. She can cater for your intimate cocktail dinner party or large soiree; Ame will plan, prepare and dish up an exciting tasty seasonal menu.

Danea Horn
Danea Horn was born with VACTERL Association, a rare birth disorder that caused malformations in six systems in the body and left her with chronic kidney disease and other demanding health challenges. Her diagnosis was described by Doctor Hardy Hendren of Boston Children's Hospital as one of "nature's worst malformations." Through this intense journey of physical challenge and self-exploration, Danea’s message of embracing our inherent humanity emerged. Her first website Creative Affirmations has inspired readers over one million times. Danea blogs at and for Health Bistro at Lifescript, and The Huffington Post. She has been featured in: RenaLife Magazine, Goodness Magazine, Bonnie Magazine, Mind Body Green, Crazy Sexy Life, and various television news programs.

Greg Howes and Brian Fikes
Owners of Two Flew the Coop, have over 20 years of experience keeping chickens in urban environments. Through their business they have helped countless people with the ins and outs of proper chicken care. They look forward to sharing the many benefits and joys that come from welcoming backyard chickens into your world.

Bonnie Kelly
Bonnie Kelly, CPC, is a personal development expert, motivational speaker, and author. She has helped hundreds of people & has spent thousands of hours helping people just like you transform their lives. Bonnie has dedicated her life to helping others stop the cycle of self sabotage, break free of toxic limitations and beliefs, and to become fiercely self-reliant.

Dr Suzette Lanzarotta
Dr Lanzarotta is a chiropractor and homeopath. She is a graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic and has over 1,500 hours of course and clinical training in nutrition and homeopathy. Dr. Lanzarotta has 25 years of experience providing classical homeopathic and nutritional services, both at her Auburn family practice clinic and through her Web site, She enjoys lecturing at the Co-op and welcomes new patients to her practice.

Alex Lara
Alex Lara is the co-owner of Thrive, a comprehensive health and wellness company in Sacramento. Thrive provides some of the world’s best systems for anyone to achieve sustainable health and wellness. From nutrition consultation, total body fitness training, supplementation, lifestyle coaching and much more. He and his team of health and wellness experts have over 60 years of high level experience in sustainable wellness and a true passion for helping everyone to Thrive!

Sacha Laurin
Sacha Laurin is Assistant Cheesemaker for Winters Cheese. She has an absolute passion for artisan cheesemaking after living and working closely with goat cheese artisans in the Brie area of France for 15 years. She is also a 2012 Board member of the California Artisan Cheese Guild. Native to Australia, Sacha lives in Davis and teaches artisan cheesemaking classes and studies the science of cheesemaking and affinage at every opportunity. Sacha loves to make, eat, breathe, teach and learn about all things cheese, and is passionate about increasing community awareness and education, and helping support every aspect of the Californian artisan cheese community and industry.

Kami McBride
Kami McBride is a practicing herbalist in Vacaville. She has taught herbal medicine and women's health since 1988 and currently teaches Herbology at UCSF School of Nursing. Kami inspires people to bring the use of herbal remedies back into everyday life to support optimum nutrition, health, and well-being. For more information, visit

Janet McDonald
Janet McDonald is a strong advocate for eating seasonal and regional which has led to her enthusiasm for preserving food. As owner of The Good Stuff, creating jams and marmalade is a top priority, but extending a season by canning, fermenting or drying is a passion. Janet carries her excitement to the community through teaching, working with Harvest Sacramento and as a Cultivator for Soil Born Farms. For Janet cooking is great fun and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others.

Joey Miller, MPH, RD
Joey Miller is a Registered Dietitian with more than 16 years experience in the Natural Products Industry. She has a passion for good food, health and nutrition which led her to become a RD after receiving a B.S. in Nutrition Science and Masters in Public Health from UC Davis. Joey's goal as an instructor is to assist people in transitioning to natural products and shed light on dietary trends and fads from an evidence based perspective. Joey is also a contributor to the Co-op Reporter with topics on food, nutrition and body care.

Eileen Murray
A California native, Eileen started her cooking career in Alaska in 1973 working as a camp cook, baker and vegetarian cook until relocating to Sacramento in 1990. Eileen joined the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op right away and continues to be active at the Co-op. After receiving a certificate in 1989 from the Kushi Institute, Eileen started “Eileen’s Kitchen,” a Macrobiotic Personal Chef business preparing meals to go for vegan clients and persons with health concerns. Eileen is committed to the vision of a healthy community through education and sharing. Contact Eileen at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Brandy Jo Neth-Aranjo
Brandy Jo is a board certified Holistic Health Practitioner who specializes in nutrition education and nutrition response muscle testing (NRT). She teaches people how food truly can heal our bodies. After many years of research and experience, she has developed a whole-food detox program that not only cleanses the entire body, but provides very large amount of nutrients which will feed the immune system, support the digestion process, help to balance the endocrine system and improve overall body function. She has supported over 1,000 people through this detox process over the years.

Lucia Oliverio
Lucia was born of immigrant Italian parents and raised with the traditional peasant food of southern Italy. She learned to perfect her cooking skills at an early age by cooking with her Mother and Grandmother (who often attend her classes). Eventually, Lucia decided to share the foods she grew up with by opening a restaurant," La Dolce Vita", in San Jose in the late 1980's. She continues to share her love of cooking through teaching, her catering company “il Cucina Italiana Catering,” and as a regular guest on KCRA Channel 3 on the last Friday of every month.

Ed Roehr
Ed Roehr is the chef and a founding partner of Magpie Cafe. Started in 2005 as a catering company focused on seasonal and local foods, Magpie has grown to become a restaurant on Sacramento’s R Street Corridor and to include Yellowbill Cafe Bakery in the same neighborhood. Ed has spent his entire working life in a kitchen, starting with a dishwashing job he took at age 16. After five years of bouncing around kitchens in downtown Sacramento, Ed took a three month road trip to Baja California that changed his perspective on place, identity, food and culture. Now he is one of a few chefs in Sacramento who truly personify the “farm to fork” philosophy.

Lanna Seuret
Lanna Seuret is a graduate of the Sacramento Waste Management-Sac County compost class and has over twelve years dedicated experience composting in Sacramento.

Hank Shaw
Hank Shaw is a cook, hunter, angler, forager and wild foods expert constantly on the lookout for new things to catch and eat. Hank is a constant forager, angler, hunter, gardener and fan of farmer’s markets. Seasonality rules his diet; he says, “In winter, I would rather eat a well-cooked turnip than asparagus from Chile.” Hank runs the wild foods blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, which won the James Beard Award for Best Blog in 2013. He is the author of Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast, and the brand new book, Duck, Duck, Goose.

Jill Simmons
Jill Simmons is a certified cooking instructor who started teaching professionally in 1997, and has taught at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op’s Community Learning Center & Cooking School since its opening. Jill specializes in desserts and French cooking. Jill’s savvy for transforming dessert items from common into uncommonly fantastic is substantiated by her winning blue ribbons at the California State Fair for her cheesecake and pies, as well as a coveted “best of class” ribbon for her chocolate brownies and a “best of division” ribbon for her deep dish apple pie. In addition, Jill’s Irish Cream Cheesecake was featured in Sacramento Magazine. With numerous trips to France over the past few years, Jill has been inspired to teach many of the French classics. She has also discovered the importance of teaching cooking classes to kids and teens, so they will learn to eat more healthily as well as sustaining the art of cooking.

Walt Simmons
Walt specializes in wine and food pairing. His love of wine began when he was a sales representative for Youngs Market Company in the latter 1980s. At Youngs, Walt started as a merchandiser and then provided service to many of the fine restaurants and bars in the Carmel and Monterey area, businesses where some of the world's finest wines and spirits are served. Today, Walt sustains and cultivates a passionate interest in all things wine and cuisine, and he particularly enjoys sharing this passion in a classroom environment.

Barbara and Bob Sommer
Barbara’s love of mushrooms goes back to a first sighting in the mid-1970s. She had spent the first thirty years of her life never seeing a mushroom in the wild, and now, suddenly, they were everywhere! She is the Secretary/Treasurer of Sacramento Area Mushroomers (SAM), a member of the San Francisco Mycological Society (MSSF) and the North American Mycological Association (NAMA). Bob Sommer has been a hobbyist mushroomer for almost 40 years. He is the author of the column "Easy Edibles" for Mushroom, the Journal of Wild Mushrooming. He's also the co-author of Field Guide to Mushrooms of Western North America (UC Press, 2012).

Tara Stiles
Tara Stiles began her practice of meditation and yoga as a curious teenager over 35 years ago. She has been teaching yoga, tai chi and chi kung in the Sacramento area for over 20 years.

Mayumi Tavalero
Mayumi is passionate about food and truly enjoys working with people to help them find their “inner chef.” She has been in the food industry for over 17 years and was the director for Shallots Cooking School (inside Nugget Market in Vacaville) for 7 years. Mayumi owns Fork & Knife Creations, where she offers in-home cooking classes, kitchen organization and personal shopping services.

Julie Tharalson
Julie Tharalson is a Registered Dietitian with more than 15 years experience in clinical and outpatient medical nutrition practice. Looking for a challenge, she left her secure hospital job and moved more than 3000 miles to pursue her culinary passions at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Julie’s goal as a cooking instructor is to help people who think they can’t cook learn basic techniques to create simple, healthy and delicious dishes for themselves and their families. Julie writes the food blog

Wendy Van Wagner
Wendy Van Wagner has owned and operated In the Kitchen Cooking School and Catering in Nevada City, Ca since 2007. She studied cultural anthropology at Pitzer College and then holistic nutrition at Bauman College. She loves the cultural stories that are told and shared through cooking. Her classes focus on delicious yet uncomplicated recipes that highlight the seasonal bounty of the Sierra Nevada Foothills and the culinary traditions from around the world.

Louise Vidaurri
Louise is a Chakra Intuitive, Radical Forgiveness Coach and Interfaith Minister. She has the special gift of being able to connect with a person’s energy field and sense their emotional trauma at a very deep spiritual level. In her workshops and classes, she is able to express to her clients in simple no-nonsense terms how to release deeply stored emotional blocks, feelings and unwanted patterns. These blocks, when held for long periods of time, create dis-ease in one form or another, whether it be health, emotional, relationships or financial.

Pablo Voitzuk
Pablo is a native of Buenos Aires and currently lives in Chico. He is an olive oil consultant and has been making olive oil for more than 10 years with Apollo and currently makes olive oil for Pacific Sun. Pablo is a member of the COOC tasting panel as well as UC Davis where he teaches classes on Olive Oil and Olives.

Gigi Warshawsky
Gigi graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco in 1981. She has been in the restaurant industry for over 30 years as both Chef and in Management. She currently owns two companies; Food Safety Specialists and Dish It Up! She taught classes at Shallots Cooking School in Vacaville for 5 years and is currently instructing at the Co-op in Sacramento. To contact Gigi; e-mail her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and put in subject line “Sacramento Co-op”

Emily Webber
In 2002, Emily discovered veganism and, along with it, a whole new world of flavor. From 2004–2008 she was the Supervisor of Salud!, Cooking & Lifestyle School at Whole Foods Market Sacramento. She has written for VegNews Magazine and Veggie Life Magazine and is now a Freelance Cooking Instructor. Cooking healthful meals for her picky toddler has been her biggest culinary challenge to date.

Dr. Damon West
Dr West is a board certified doctor of chiropractic and a leading expert on health and wellness. He serves our community at his family practice near McKinley Park in East Sacramento. Since opening his practice in 1999, Dr West has become proficient in over ten gentle spinal correction techniques and has helped thousands of people improve the quality of their health through natural chiropractic care. He has had numerous articles published and, because of his unique wit and humor, is a sought after speaker at local civic groups, health food stores and health clubs in town.

Marie Wilson
Marie Wilson is living proof that focusing on health can save your life. Diagnosed with M. S. and confined to a wheelchair, Wilson knew she needed to seek her own path to heal. Through posture correction, she walked again and she is pain free! Her life is dedicated to helping others discover their own mind, body and spirit healing powers. She is passionate about helping others achieve a healthy lifestyle and to be confident in ‘being the best you that you can be’!

Holly Woodcock
Holly Woodcock is a local food enthusiast with a passion for paleo living. Since losing 100 pounds three years ago just by just making a few simple tweaks to how she eats, she has made it her mission to show how easy and functional paleo eating can be. Her food philosophy goes deeper than just “Eat what is good for you and avoid what isn't.” Food isn't only about nourishing our bodies it is also about enriching our lives. Finding the overlap between food that is good for your health and food that is good for your soul is exactly what she'll be sharing in class. To follow along on her health and fitness adventures, check out her website at

Steven Zien
Known by area gardeners as Sacramento’s Organic Advocate, Steven Zien has more than 35 years experience in organic horticulture. He operates an organic landscape maintenance company, is a California Certified Nursery Professional and has won numerous state and local awards for his environmentally sound horticultural work and education programs (UC Davis Extension, American River College). His name may seem familiar, having written a column in the Sacramento Bee’s garden section for 20 years, serving as the State Fair’s Integrated Pest Management Specialist for 10 years, and as a frequent guest on local garden radio shows.