From the time I was little, food was a central interest. Why were my Irish grandmother’s pancakes so light and fluffy, and where did the savory quality come from? How did she form the crisp texture around the edges, and why couldn't anyone else make them this way for me?
My interest in food continued to be a family currency, and, when my father came out, I got a “bonus” dad, Andrea Velis, who had learned to cook in Rome while studying opera. It was helping Andrea prepare dinner parties for family friends, such as Joan Sutherland and Peter Shaffer, that I learned to make flawless risotto as a teenager.
Then, in college, I had one of those meals that makes you think you'd never really eaten in your life before. I was invited to a friend’s house in upstate New York, and her father and mother were the gardener and the cook for the Sulzberger family, who owned the New York Times.
When I walked into her kitchen, ribbons of fresh pasta were dangling, from cupboard to chair and back again. There were bowls of fresh strawberries still warm from the garden. I woke up that day to flavor. It forever changed my relationship to food. While I would never call myself a foodie, I do consider eating well one of the most important aspects of living a good life.
Beyond food, curiosity is probably the through line of my life. My early years were unconventional , as I was raised in three locations: the Rust Belt of Western Pennsylvania, the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and the “Live Free or Die” White Mountains of New Hampshire. Each had its own culture and its own pulse. I loved learning what made each place tick and how to enjoy it for what it was.
I think that’s partly why I wound up studying cultural anthropology at university—so I could enjoy the exploration of a culture. I had so much fun looking for patterns and developing appreciation and understanding of unique ways of life.
Today, I find myself re-creating this lifestyle in Berlin, New York City, and Portland, Oregon. It allows me to attain perspectives as both an insider and an outsider. I think the ability to be somewhat nomadic and focused in my search for authenticity offers clients a multi-dimensional point of view.
Being an entrepreneur, connector, speaker, and educator allows me to get paid to learn and to create. It’s life’s greatest privilege to do what you love.