Crestone Mountain Zen Center is well known for its fine and inventive vegetarian cuisine. The kitchen is the heart of our community. Our meals, prepared three times a day from fresh ingredients, express our commitment to care and nourishment.

Our food culture is based in the Zen tradition known as “oryoki,” which means “just enough.” Oryoki refers both to a set of nested bowls and the ritual of using the bowls to serve, receive and eat the food. Like the Japanese tea ceremony, oryoki practice is a gestural enactment of a set of principles that include simplicity, attention to detail, interdependence, generosity, and utmost respect for each person, ingredient, and utensil.

As an individual guest, you will eat the same food as the monks and residents, yet without the oryoki ritual. The meal will be served in three bowls, carefully composed to highlight individual textures, tastes and colors. It’s simple, unpretentious, healthy, delicious food, in which we strive to let the voice of each ingredient be heard in the chorus of flavors.

During the Group Retreat Season from July through September, when we host groups of 20-50 persons, we switch to buffet style table meals that guests can enjoy in our beautiful dining room or while enjoying the expansive views from our lawn. While presented differently, the principles of our Zen cuisine still apply.

Homegrown, Homemade

In the summer a good portion of the produce comes from our own 2500 square foot vegetable and fruit gardens.

Almost everything we serve is homemade. We continually develop and experiment with food processing and preservation methods such as fermentation, canning, and dehydration. On a daily basis we make and serve a variety of fresh breads, milk products like yogurt and kefir, and spreads ranging from fruit preserves to nut butters.

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Local Food

We use primarily organic ingredients and source locally as much as possible.

As part of our Ecological Transformation Initiative, our current effort is to deepen our cooperation with local farmers and help support a local San Luis Valley food system.

Making a commitment to homegrown and local food is an essential ingredient to our vision of developing our Retreat Center as an ecologically responsible, sustainable and regenerative community that embodies the change the world urgently needs.

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Our Zen kitchen practice has been transmitted from Tenzo (Head of the Kitchen) to Tenzo for more than 50 years. It stretches back to the San Francisco Zen Center and its pioneering Greens Restaurant, which was opened in 1979 by our current Abbot Zentatsu Baker Roshi and founding chef Deborah Madison. Greens has been rooted in a farm-to-table philosophy since its inception and played an instrumental role in introducing fine vegetarian dining to America. We are proud to continue this lineage.

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