I grew up with a spatula in one hand and a paintbrush in another, among a family of artists and cooks. I received my first watercolors at age 5, when I also observed my mother and grandmother transforming mounds of brilliant vegetables into delicious, comforting soups. I’ve blended the two together, as chef/author of 5 award-winning cookbooks and a mixed media artist.
In my twenties I worked in marketing in NYC. One grey day, in my tall grey office building in my grey office, I had a flash of insight. If I continued on my current career path, not only would I be burned out in short order, but I would live a grey life. I fled to Italy, with no language and no luggage (mine was lost), clutching a map in Italian and my innate curiosity, I found color, texture and atmosphere. I found a studio to paint in mornings and an Italian signora to teach me cooking in the afternoons. I began a life of exploration, inspiration and healing through food and art, and offering that to the world of people in search of both.
I became a professional chef. I found my niche in food and healing. I played with flavor, color and texture to connect nutrition science to the plate, and pioneered an intelligent, novel and delicious use of food in the treatment of cancer. My nonprofit Healing Kitchens Institute continues to work closely on healing through food with survivors and health professionals in major US cancer centers.
Today, I find making art and cooking creatively are both opportunities to be fully present in life, to pay attention to color, texture and composition. To be inspired by nature. To be so absorbed in tasks that time expands. Working in my kitchen or studio is an immersion experience, in a vibrant, reverent, tactile, visual world.