Tucked between hiking trails and Tibetan prayer flags, Land of Medicine Buddha has a one-of-a-kind kitchen.
Chef Stephanie Rentz and her team serve organic, vegetarian, buffet-style dishes like Indian curries, tempeh-style chorizo or housemade veggie burgers to retreat guests, hikers and other visitors.
Rentz earned her culinary stripes doing backstage catering for music acts like Chris Isaak, No Doubt and Def Leppard. Now, as kitchen manager for LMB, she oversees daily breakfast ($10), lunch ($16) and dinner ($14). Walk-ins are welcome, but space is limited, so call to reserve a spot.
What’s different about cooking at LMB vs. other kitchens you’ve worked in?
STEPHANIE RENTZ: We really provide as organic as possible, as local as possible, as sustainable as possible. We have vegans, many people that come with dietary restrictions, allergies. Offering a buffet for up to 70 people where everyone feels nourished, everyones’ dietary restrictions or requests are offered in a safe way, that’s huge. It can be really complicated.
Where do you get your inspiration for your cooking?
A lot of the menus that have become popular when I’m doing the cooking are things I’ve made for my family, or that my mother made for me. If I am delving in for some inspiration, honestly, I think I’m a cookbook hoarder. I have them stacked up in my living room, stacked up in my bedroom.
A lot of people have an image of Buddhist retreat centers being really calm, zen spaces, but kitchens can also be pretty hectic. Does it ever get stressful?
Oh, absolutely. Coming from backstage catering where it’s loud outside, it’s loud inside, the cooks are screaming at each other across the kitchen. Coming to this Buddhist retreat center, I was shushed so many times.
Do you practice Buddhist principles in the kitchen?
Our two main rules are not to harm any sentient beings—and sentient to the Buddhists is any living creature, so from the ants to the bugs that come to me with the organic vegetables, I escort them outside … And no intoxicants, no alcohol, so I don’t cook with any wine.
Land of Medicine Buddha, 5800 Prescott Rd., Soquel. 462-8383, landofmedicinebuddha.org.