meet karuna diedericks
My search for meaning and purpose started in my teens when my father introduced me to Transcendental Meditation, Ayurveda and yoga and I became aware of the mind-body-spirit connection to health and healing through Deepak Chopra’s books. As a South African child I grew up with Apartheid, but when we were no longer separated by race, a spiritual desire to find my true identity was awakened within me. My search for self-identity led me to the books of AC BHaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of ISKCON. Those texts helped me recognize that I am a spiritual being first, and that my mind and body are just coverings that are temporary and changing. As a spiritual being I am eternal, joyful by nature, and have access to deep intuitive wisdom. I began following Prabhupada’s instructions to chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra as the way to release attachment to the body and mind and become fully self-realized. At 20, I joined the Hare Krishna temple in Cape Town as a full-time devotee.
In the temple my passion for food, cooking and serving meals was ignited. My mother is an exceptional cook and hostess who instilled in me an appreciation for wholesome cuisine and the art of celebrating with food. So I was immediately drawn to the kitchen. I found comfort in the rich aromas and the warmth of the flame. Temple culture took this to a higher level where cooking and feasting is an integral part of the spiritual practices. We cooked for 20 to 200 people every day, making each part of the meal from scratch. Holy days were celebrated with multi-course feasts and all varieties of vegetarian cuisine. It was there that I discovered my talent for managing the temple’s catering kitchen. As often happens to those with a passion for food and a talent for cooking, I gained weight that I sought to lose. I turned to Ayurveda and after a few months of strictly eating for my body type (Pitta-Vata), Ayurvedic cleanses and regular yoga practice, I regained my natural weight with an added benefit. I now felt more energized, strong and focused.
In 2004, I moved to San Diego, California, where I was strongly encouraged by my husband to study at the California College of Ayurveda. There I found my calling, as I delved deeper into the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda. As a temple chef, there were many opportunities to practice Ayurvedic cooking. I easily combined the cooking that I learned in the temple and from Kurma Dasa in India, with the principles and practices of Ayurveda I learned at school. In 2007, I qualified as a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist (and became the mother to my beautiful daughter, Sundari).
As an Ayurvedic practitioner, my goal is to help each client reach their health objectives through a diet that is best suited to their personal body type. I use consultation and diagnostic tools to figure out their imbalances and how to help them bring their bodies back into balance. With this information, I create a plan with recommendations and dietary guidelines. Clients who have followed the plan under my guidance have overcome digestive and weight issues, dealt with stress, and improved their general health and energy level. In order to use yoga as a healing modality, I earned my 200-hour yoga teacher certification through The Yoga Institute of Houston, and together with Ayurveda, have helped my patients overcome their health challenges through the practice of yoga.
Receiving the Food for Life Instructor training through the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine rounded out my understanding of food as medicine. With this certification, I became adept in teaching how to use a plant-based cuisine for overcoming and preventing diet-related diseases such as high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Marrying my knowledge of cooking, Ayurveda, and plant-based preventative medicine, I have become a plant-based nutrition expert. Over the past ten years, I have taught Ayurveda and Ayurvedic cooking at several locations in Greater Houston, including Whole Foods, Central Market and Sprouts. Currently, I maintain a small base of private chef clients that I have served for many years. I create meals according to their unique tastes and dietary preferences, and tailor their weekly orders according to their needs.
Karuna’s Kitchen is the next level of expansion for me. I am excited to finally bring together my years of experience and expertise to provide food that transforms lives, increases vitality and helps people to find what best suits their body types.
I am thrilled to be partnering with Antonio Manega in this venture as he brings a vision and artistic flare that compliments and enhances the work I have done over two decades.
meet antonio manega
I was born in Milan in northern Italy—a city known for fashion and commerce, and a European hub of design and innovation. As a child, I set my sights on the stars and dreamt of space-faring. I built fanciful space stations out of Legos and wore an astronaut costume for every Carnevale (Mardi Gras). I even circled Houston in my third grade Geography Atlas as my most desired destination. But eventually my dreams of flying into space were grounded by the lure of design and architecture. My path led to design school after which I found my first job in a design studio in Milan. Nonetheless, I found my way to Houston where I have worked for several decades as a graphic designer, and currently partner in a design and marketing firm.
Being Italian, food has always played an important role in my life and my earliest memories are of my mother in her kitchen. She was self-taught, yet knew exactly how to cook and serve everything. I learned at her side, observing how she worked with ingredients. I helped when I could. She'd ask me to pass the herbs and spices, add the salt, or a little more water or olive oil. Through her, I learned the importance and balance of each ingredient and how it could enhance flavor and heighten satisfaction. I wanted to cook as she did.
I discovered the healing power of food in my early forties when my well-being was affected by weight. I started noticing that particular food types robbed me of energy and mental clarity. Through the process of elimination, I discovered a diet that suited me both physically and spiritually —a plant-based diet fueled by fresh juices that brought back vitality and endurance, returned me to my optimal weight, and has helped me maintain a balanced life and overall joy.
Indulging in my passion for food, I have collaborated with several restaurants for hands-on training in the culinary industry. At Juicy in the Sky, I worked as a juiceman, doing vegetable preparation, inventory and customer service. At Mobius in Brenham, I assisted with general management, as well as in the kitchen preparing sandwiches and salads. I am currently the weekend chef at Siphon in Montrose, and am part of a motivated team of producers and creators.