“It’s been a wild, winding path that I would have never predicted,” says author and chef Georgia Pellegrini. A woman who wears many hats, she's most famous for her best-selling books on hunting, autonomy and “modern pioneering.”
“I grew up with a family that lived off the land, where food and ingredients were at your fingertips,” she explains of her inspiring New York upbringing. Yet after graduating from Wellesley College, she took a cut-throat financial job on Wall Street. “It was very appealing to a poor college student. I went for it, and I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t what made me happy. But the silver lining is that when you’re so miserable, it forces yourself to think about when you’re happiest.”
What made Pellegrini happy, it turned out, was returning to those childhood roots tied so closely to her deep love of cooking. So she cut herself loose from Lehman Brothers and enrolled in culinary school. She then landed a series of jobs at prestigious farm-to-table restaurants, including Blue Hill at Stone Barns on the Rockefeller Estate, which is where her “watershed moment” occurred. She was told to kill five turkeys for the evening’s meal.
“I spent so much time putting this beautiful food onto plates, but I never had to face the food and what had to happen for it get there. It was an emotional and intense moment to have to kill something with your hands, but I realized I wanted to do more of that,” she says. “I set out on this journey to teach myself how to hunt.”
The subsequent time spent with veteran hunters in places like the Arkansas Delta was more than worthwhile; the experiences collectively inspired Pellegrini to pen the critically acclaimed Girl Hunter, as well as the recently released Modern Pioneering.
In Girl Hunter, Pellegrini “travels over field and stream in search of the main course — from quail to venison and wild boar, from elk to javelina and squirrel.” And for Modern Pioneering, she examines “manual literacy” and encourages both men and women to find a way back towards using their hands in order to get a literal grasp on things that “our grandparents knew how to do.” After all, she jokes, “I had a college degree but didn’t know how to fix my own toilet!”
That said, she assures her potential readers and fans: “You don’t have to be a hunter or fly fisherman. There are ways to do things with a short amount of time with your hands, like make your own butter from scratch in 15 minutes; up-cycle; or turn leftover red wine into popsicles. These are simple ‘lifestyle hacks.’”
After a brave and circuitous path, Pellegrini's career has finally become her life’s calling — “but it doesn’t feel like work.” Now, she hopes to spread this spirit of independence to other women and leads “Adventure Getaways,” which have been covered by the likes of the Wall Street Journal and have led the New York Times to a call her an “empowerment guru.”
“Self-sufficiency,” she says, “is the ultimate girl power.”