Today I’m excited to share the story of my good friend Anna Gass and her path to food media and entrepreneurship. To be invited to Anna’s home for a meal is to hit the culinary jackpot. To be sitting next to her at a party ensures an evening of laughs and joy. Anna was trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York and she worked her way up from recipe tester to best-selling cookbook author and frequent guest on Good Morning America. Anna is a real Italian and her culinary genius originates from her mom’s kitchen. It was Mamma Gina’s meatballs that inspired Anna to cook with immigrant grandmothers from all over the world. Anna shares her quest to preserve their ethnic recipes – all of which are true family heirlooms – in her book, Heirloom Kitchen. Please see here below for a sneak peek into Anna’s career and wellness journey.
TIO: Anna Gass
The Inquisitive Olive: Anna Gass
Favorite food? Eggplant Parmigiana
Favorite self-care treatment? Meditating with candle lights off and Sounds of the Ocean
Favorite yoga pose? Downward facing dog - it’s the only pose I’ve mastered!
Favorite place to travel? That’s easy, ITALIA.
Favorite part of your day? Early morning, right before the sun comes up
What inspired you to pursue your area of expertise?
I started a successful career in sales, got married, and started to have children. After my second daughter, I realized that I needed a change from the stress of the corporate world. I remember being on the phone with my dad one day, telling him about how I was feeling unfulfilled in my career. He reminded me of my passion for cooking and suggested, “why not culinary school?” I found a weekend trial course and, after three days I was hooked.
Drop us with some knowledge. What’s the one fact, insight, or story about your area of expertise you’d like to share?
The connection between a journalism, psychology, and women studies background with food may not be an obvious one. Yet, I was able to break into the world of food media with this unique skill set. I found my niche in the test kitchens of Martha Stewart Living, Whole Foods and Mad Hungry. Currently, I am a contributing editor and recipe tester for Food52 and a contributing writer for MSN.com. I am happiest in my kitchen.
CULTURE & RELATIONSHIPS
What’s your cultural or ethnic heritage, and how does your background inform your approach to wellness?
I love to share the traditions and home life that I was lucky to experience with my Italian family. This passion has inspired and shaped the work I do every day.
I am celebrating and promoting the release of my first cookbook, Heirloom Kitchen - Heritage Recipes and Family Stories From The Tables of Immigrant Women. In this work, I pay homage to all of the immigrant mothers, like mine, who came to the United States for a better life and to provide more opportunities to their children.
Who do you call family?
My world revolves around my husband, three children, parents and sister’s family.
Food is love, so tell us: What’s a comfort food that you associate with family?
I love to make my own granola. My kids use it as cereal or our favorite is to include it in yogurt parfaits with fresh cut fruit.
How do you stay connected with loved ones?
I believe the key to a happy family relationship is home cooked family meals. We eat dinner together as a family every single night and it’s a touchstone for us all. The only thing to do is to eat and share the events of the day - the highs, the lows and the in betweens. There is something to be said for having quantity time as well as quality time - every single day that evening interaction is devoted to the people around the table. And the food is what we all share together, without distractions.
What part of your morning ritual helps you start the day on the right foot?
I have a morning meditation practice and I strive for 8 hours of sleep a night.
What’s your favorite place to unwind?
I love to take walks with my dog with just the sounds of nature to accompany us.
Tell us about a time when you didn’t feel well—physically, emotionally, or spiritually. What action steps did you take to heal?
I quit my job in sales and enrolled in Culinary Arts at the French Culinary Institute (now ICC) to follow a dream to cook professionally and I never looked back.
For the next nine months, I was a mom by day and a student chef by night. I would commute into Manhattan three times a week and learn my craft from 7-11pm. It was hard work, especially balancing home life with an exhausting night school schedule, but I loved every minute of it.
How do you stay healthy?
I try to use all natural products. I always look for cosmetics that are much cleaner than what can be found in the local drugstore. I also spend time with family, enjoy the outdoors, and create in the kitchen!
How do you enjoy your Kosterina Extra Virgin olive oil?
My go to lunch is a huge salad with grilled chicken and Kosterina olive oil, of course!
Do you like hosting dinner parties? If so, do you have a dish that’s your claim to fame?
My lasagna bolognese and homemade Tiramisu are always huge crowd pleasers.
Have you been to Greece? If so – did you find a product, dish or drink you loved? If you haven’t, what would you do and see there if you could?
Traveling feels like a dream at the moment, but one day I hope to visit Greece (especially Mykonos)!
How do you keep your mind and body fit? What are your routines for movement and mindfulness?
I love dance classes like ballet and Zumba. I also try to get outdoors first thing in the morning - it helps me feel grounded for the rest of the day.