Years spent at Gladwyne Montessori: 1979-1985 (1st-6th grade)
Teachers: Gerry Hartnett; Helena Grady; Mary Sarni
Degrees: B.F.A. in Sculpture, Washington University in St. Louis (minor in Italian); Grande Diplome from The French Culinary Institute (now named the International Culinary Center)
Describe your professional work experience.
While at Washington University in St. Louis, my work shifted towards food and its symbolism in my senior year where I created installation pieces and sculptures that connected food, feminism, and our social connections to food. Early in my professional life, I felt compelled to study food more intensely and studied at The French Culinary Institute in New York City. I worked as a professional chef, merging my visual arts training with my culinary training when I landed at the Food Network. It was the dawn of food tv, and I supported the chefs and shows that would come to define the genre - Iron Chef America, Molto Mario, Emeril Live, Barefoot Contessa. I spent a decade freelancing, eventually taking on roles as a Producer/Director for television shows and documentary films. I directed Simply Laura for Cooking Channel and earned an Emmy Nomination for my producing work on The Kitchen. I’m particularly proud of my work in films such as Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, which was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.
I’ve spent the past 3 years at the award-winning production company Zero Point Zero (creators of Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain) spearheading their branded content. I was the VP Culinary Creative Director, overseeing a large digital and social media campaign of recipes, photography, and video content for VOLPI Foods.
Simultaneous to my work in television, digitalization, and film, I’ve had the opportunity to work on over a dozen best-selling cookbooks. Most recently, I had the pleasure of co-creating a hunting cookbook, The Meateater Fish and Game Cookbook, with award-winning author Steven Rinella. Released in November of 2018, it is already a bestseller! As a co-collaborator, I filled many roles: corralled Steven’s words (he is the wordsmith of this complex topic), conceived the unique structure of the book, and creatively designed the imagery and illustrations for these sections. I wrote and developed recipes and then art directed and styled the food and props for photography.
Ultimately, my experience with sculpture/fine arts, the food industry, and tv/film have given me an eye for creating dynamic food media content. I am always looking for new ways to tell these stories as I work to develop, direct, and produce alluring ideas.
What brought you to Gladywne Montessori?
I grew up in University City and attended Greene Towne Montessori near the Franklin Institute. My parents fell in love with the philosophy and decided on Gladwyne Montessori to continue my journey!
What are your most meaningful memories of your time at Gladwyne Montessori?
I loved the freedom a Montessori classroom gave us as students. I remember Ms. Sarni would put a list of activities on the board for the week, but it was up to us to organize that time. We were free to explore science, art, and anything else in the classroom whenever we wanted to, provided that we accomplished her list of activities at the end of the week. Of course there were directed lessons, but the value placed on freedom supports the idea that things can be approached differently; there is always more than one way to complete a task and more than one approach to find an answer. I also remember a day in 6th grade when we were learning square roots using boxes of cubes. My classmates and I all looked at each other—we couldn’t believe these very boxes that were teaching us math were the same boxes of blocks used in our class pictures each year, the same boxes we played with as younger children. We never knew what its greater purpose was until then; it feels very existential to look back on that as an adult!
How did Gladwyne Montessori develop you as a learner?
I still tell my own children how much I enjoyed learning through materials, namely counting with the bead chain. A Montessori education creates deeper meaning. For example, through a textured map and putting our hands in water, we learned what a peninsula like Florida is. Learning, for me, was completely visceral, and it ignited that connectivity between touch and understanding. Presently and with my current work, the visual and the structural are such large pieces of what I create; I have a grounded confidence in those skill sets, skills that were developed at Gladwyne Montessori.