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Annemarie Colbin 1941-2015

Annemarie Colbin, PhD, left this earth on April 10, 2015 in Denver, Colorado, following a brain hemorrhage. Members of her family were by her side.

Annemarie was one of the early pioneers of the health food movement, daring to be different well before whole foods were mainstream and the connection between diet and health was readily accepted. In 1977, she founded the Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI), in New York City, now the oldest health-supportive culinary school in the United States, educating young cooks about the ins and outs of health-supportive cuisine before it was hip and trendy to eat clean.

Born in Holland in 1941, Annemarie and her mother fled to Hungary during World War II. Although they got separated from her father Rudolf, the family was reunited after the war when they moved back to Holland where her brother Michel was later born. They ultimately migrated to a small beach town in Argentina called Mar del Plata and opened a boutique hotel called The Carlton where the whole family worked.

When Annemarie’s father fell ill, her mother took the family to a vegetarian spa run by Seventh-day Adventists where her parents went on a 21-day cleanse; Annemarie did it for 11 days, which marked the beginning of her understanding and appreciation of the connection between food and health. Sadly, when Annemarie was 19 years old, her father died of a heart attack in her arms.

Dr. Colbin was a healthy food visionary. She referred to her work as “natural foods cooking,” and summed up her philosophy in seven principles. Good food, she said, should be seasonal, local, whole, traditional, balanced, fresh, and delicious. Although this philosophy is deceptively simple, it is grounded in her doctoral work in holistic nutrition, which included a dissertation that incorporated systems theory, complexity theory, chaos theory, and the theory of relativity into an integrated theory of nutrition.

As Annemarie’s daughter Kaila stated at the memorial: “The purpose of being alive is to express what is inside you, and inside my mother was love, beauty, strength, and a vision for helping people take charge of their health through food.”

Annemarie authored or co-authored multiple books including Food and Healing (Ballantine Books, 1986), The Natural Gourmet (1991), The Book of Whole Meals (1983), and The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones (New Harbinger Publications, 2009). Her work has also been featured in the New York Times, Elle, Good Housekeeping, Natural Health, Longevity, and New Age Journal.

She won numerous awards including an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP)/Seagram Book Award and the Avon/Small Business Administration “Women of Enterprise” Award. Annemarie was also granted a Fearless Food Advocate Award for her work “as a leader in the realm of whole foods and health-supportive cooking.” Green Guerillas, the organization that issued the award, said it was in honor of her “commitment to convincing generations of culinary professionals and everyday people they should care about what’s on their plate.”

When asked what they learned from their mother, both daughters had this to offer:

The world is not a safe place and all sorts of horrible things can happen, but that cannot stop you from living your life.

Take responsibility for yourself and your health.

You make the choices on how to handle your health. Take all of the advice given to you with love and respect, and then decide.

The mainstream opinion isn’t always the answer; sometimes it’s okay to take the road less traveled.

And one of Annemarie’s favorite sayings, as noted by her daughters, was that “there’s no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Dr. Colbin was a leader, a teacher, a mother, a friend, and a role model for generations of chefs, and she deeply affected the lives of those around her. Annemarie is survived by her two daughters, her son-in-law, three stepchildren, two grandchildren, and two step-grandchildren. Her legacy will live on through the good work of everyone whose path she inspired.

—Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN Culinary Nutritionist