Hi! I’m so glad you’re here, and I’m 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 by someone just as good, my mother, who often took our lessons into the garden. Her Italian upbringing heavily influenced my cooking: fresh, simple, seasonal. I steal any spare moment to hit the trail, and though I’m a sucker for extreme adventure, becoming a mother to my daughter Ayla has changed my pace a bit. Now, most of my outdoor time is spent gathering with friends – old and new – around the campfire at Firelight Camps, easy hikes, or grilling in someone’s 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!
Inspired by our first hotel and restaurant in Nicaragua (La Buena Onda), my husband and I opened Firelight Camps in 2014, a “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. I’ve had to be creative in designing our breakfast program, food products for our camp store and campfire cooking events and classes. Luckily, I’ve had a lifetime of experience to prepare me for cooking oustide, including my college years as an outdoor trip leader and rock climbing instructor.
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 recipes and stories from a lifetime of outdoor cooking. (I’ll send updates as we lead up to publication in April 2018).
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 here. Nearly 500 recipes and several cooking videos later, I applied to Food Network Star as a “farm-to-table chef” and became a top finalist on Season 10.
Before all of that, I had spent nearly a decade 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. I started out college at the University of Maryland, where I trained as a backcountry guide and ultimately graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a 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.