Leah Sarris knows that starting the morning off with a nutritional meal is key. Sarris is NOCHI's Executive Director and was previously stationed at Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, where she served as the Director of Operations and Executive Chef. 

At the culinary and hospitality institute, Sarris builds and manages the curriculum for students. She also works with NOCHI's enthusiasts' classes, which are the perfect way for the public to learn from the best (while also having a fun night with food and beverage at the center). Her background is diverse and includes experience in restaurants, academia, consulting, and more. She also helped develop the country's "premier culinary medicine curricula and culinary medicine certification program for medical students and Allied Health Professionals, connecting culinary arts, science, nutrition and medicine."

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Sarris's days at the five-story campus are packed with meetings with her staff and planning for the next class's arrival. To see how she begins her days, read on for her morning routine!

6:30 a.m. My alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. every morning, but I’m not a leap-right-out-of-bed type of person. Instead, I like to give my mind a little bit of time to wake up. I usually do this by reading for 15-20 minutes, followed by a shower, and then 10 minutes of meditation using an app called CALM. For me, mental health is extremely important and is paramount for me to be able to do my job well.

7:15 a.m. Now it’s time to turn my attention to my fur baby, Jax—and like every morning, he’s already waiting by the door. Jax is a Red Nose Pit Bull and at six-years-old he has as much energy as he did when he was a puppy. I make sure to build in at least 30 minutes each morning to take him on a nice, long walk. This allows both of us to get some exercise and helps to wear him out a bit for the day.

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Leah with Jax

7:45 a.m. We’re home! And now it’s time for both of our favorite parts of the morning: breakfast. As a dietitian, I do my best to practice what I preach and that means eating a healthy, balanced diet. For breakfast, I usually opt for oatmeal complete with raisins, nuts and a sliced banana, which is always complemented by a cup of coffee—that’s mandatory.

8:30 a.m. As soon as I arrive at the office, I scroll through my e-mails. I have this new organizational routine that I’ve been trying out—essentially, I dedicate two periods of my day to sorting through my inbox and categorizing everything in either a “Today” or “This Week” folder. That way, if I can’t get to something right away, I’m at least able to revisit a prioritized inbox. So far, it seems to be doing the trick!

9:00 a.m. It’s Monday, so I head over to our weekly staff meeting. This is when we run through all of NOCHI’s upcoming events and initiatives, including programming, enthusiast courses, student classes, menu development and planning, and curriculum updates.

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10:00 a.m. After every Monday meeting, I dedicate an hour or so to walking through more specific items pertaining to each of our staff members. For me, these meetings are really helpful in making sure our teachers and students are receiving the attention needed so that they can be as successful as possible. We’re in the midst of our second term and I love seeing the progress our cohorts have made throughout the 100-day curriculum. I also have my mind on the upcoming Spring term as we continue to track applications and begin preparing to welcome a new class.

11:00 a.m. Hard to believe, but it’s lunchtime already. I’m a stickler about bringing my lunch. In order to make sure I’m living up to the culinary lessons I teach as a nutritionist, I do meal prep at the beginning of the week to help me make good food choices. I’m also extremely lucky to enjoy the meals the students make each day in class—this week, they’re in their plant-based unit, so I supplement my homemade spring rolls with salad and a grain bowl from the teaching kitchen!