Hi! I’m so glad you’re here, and am honored to share a little bit about myself with you:
I love to cook, I love to eat and I love to be outside. I’m an identical twin and one of eight siblings. I didn’t go to culinary school, but was trained traditionally, by my mother, who often took our lessons into the garden. Her Italian upbringing heavily influenced my cooking style: fresh, simple, seasonal. I steal any spare moment to hit the trail, and though I’m a sucker for extreme adventure, most of my outdoor time is spent camping, gathering friends around a campfire, or sparking the grill in my backyard. The world before the Internet was a world of playing in the woods, and it’s so deeply engrained in who I am that sometimes I forget it’s special! Maybe you know what I’m talking about?
In 2014, I opened Firelight Camps with my husband and college sweetheart, Bobby, our first “glamping” destination in Ithaca, NY. We wanted to create a way to get more people outside to connect with themselves, each other and the natural world. And to eat homemade s’mores! Unlike a traditional hotel, my restaurant is the great outdoors, and this is were I was able to bring my passions for food and the outdoors under one tent. I’ve had to be creative in designing our breakfast program, food products for our camp store and campfire cooking events and classes.
I’m crazy excited to be writing my first cookbook with Ten Speed Press, Feast by Firelight: Simple Recipes for Camping, Cabins and The Great Outdoors which will feature some recipes from camp, and others from a lifetime of outdoor cooking. (I’ll send updates as we lead up to publication in April 2018).
Firelight Camps was inspired by our first hotel and café in Matagalpa, Nicaragua (2009), La Buena Onda, which we opened to support a swell of culinary and outdoor tourism in the region. (Firelight’s campfire coffee comes directly from our friend Enrique’s coffee bean farm!)
My blogging escapades (here) began in 2011 when we moved from Nicaragua to the Finger Lakes region, where I was swept away by the age-old tradition of local food. It’s not a trend here; it’s a way of life. Nearly 500 recipes and cooking videos later, I applied to Food Network Star as a “farm-to-table chef” and became a top finalist on Season 10. It was more grueling than climbing Volcano Cotopaxi (19,347 ft.) and having a baby. No, I’m not joking. It was also one of the most formative experiences in my life (though not as much as becoming a mother!).
My earlier years were spent working with nonprofits to help build healthier regional food systems in the northeast U.S., Kenya and as a Fulbright Scholar in Ecuador. I co-founded and directed a crowdfunding platform, PEAKS, to help outdoor enthusiasts use their adventures as a fundraising vehicle for rural farmers. I’m a founding member of Groundswell International, an extraordinary organization of small-scale, family farmers around the world. As a freshmen at the University of Maryland, I trained as a backcountry guide and found my love for rock climbing, ultimately graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with B.A. in Food Studies.
I live inbeautiful Ithaca, NY with my husband, Bobby, and daughter Ayla. For more fun facts, read this short interview.