Georgia Pelligrini had a cushy job in finance - but one day she needed to make a change. What was the pivot point that led her from the skyscrapers of New York City to sleeping under a tablecloth in a rundown house in France? Glenn sat down with the woman who has become a modern day pioneer and talked to her about living off the land and getting back in touch with the things that really matter in life.
"I realized at some point that I had a college degree, but I don’t know how to fix my own toilet. And it’s sort of like why not face those vulnerabilities? Not because we shouldn’t be vulnerable, but because there’s something really satisfying about sort of pushing through that and learning," Pelligrini told Glenn.
"I actually went to culinary school in New York, and then I cooked at a restaurant, a Michelin restaurant in the south of France, and I literally, I slept in a sort of rundown house under a tablecloth I had stolen from the restaurant. I had three green frogs living in my bathroom, and it couldn’t have been further away from that sort of glamorous life or, “glamorous,” in quotes, I should say," she continued.
"I loved it so much it didn’t feel like work. And I knew that’s why it was right. And while I was there, that’s when Lehman Brothers collapsed, and I just knew in that moment it was the best decision I could’ve made because I felt like I was alive again. I was feeding my soul. I wasn’t feeding my bank account, but I was feeding my soul."
What made her decide to Lehman and change her life?
"I just think it was one of those nights when I was just sitting there really late into the night at my cubicle and the fluorescent glow of the computer screen, I just thought to myself this can’t be the answer, you know? This can’t be the rest of my life. And I realized that the longer I stayed in it, the harder it was going to be to leave. You know, I think we get used to sort of these creature comforts, and I was looking at the people that were older than me that were sort of stuck. And then look what happened. They lost all their money."
Below is a transcript of the full interview
Glenn: Georgia is here, and we’re thrilled to have her because she is somebody who has been to the top of one field, left, and climbed up to the top of another field. And she is an empowered woman and believes in empowering other women. Also, she is just one of the best chefs out there. I don’t know what you think you can do with—
Georgia: I’m excited for the challenge.
Glenn: Yeah, I know. I’m on this crazy diet. We were talking before we went on. I’m on this crazy diet, and it’s not a diet. My body was breaking down, and I think we are poisoning ourselves with food.
Georgia: I agree with you completely.
Glenn: I don’t think people really understand. You know, people always say what happened to peanut allergies? You can’t bring peanut butter in. That didn’t happen…well, there’s a reason for that. Everything we’re doing.
Georgia: It’s true. And when you think about our grandparents’ generation, they just took pure ingredients and let them speak for themselves. It was very simple, pure food, and now there’s weird things in everything that we’re eating, corn, and, you know, we are poisoning ourselves, absolutely.
Glenn: Everybody I know is having some sort of problem, and the last thing we look is at our food, and I think it’s because it’s not convenient, and it’s really expensive now.
Georgia: And we don’t really know how to make anything anymore. We don’t know how to make anything basic with just a few simple ingredients. We’re used to just sort of a quick fix because we’re so starved for time.
Glenn: Right, and our body is not reacting well to it.
Glenn: Tell me about leaving Lehman Brothers.
Georgia: Best decision I made, but it was also really scary.
Glenn: Had to be terrifying.
Georgia: Yeah, it was. You know, it was the path of least resistance coming out of college. You know, poor college student, when you’re sort of offered money, and it’s very alluring, you just sort of go for it, the path of least resistance.
Glenn: Was it a thing where you said I don’t like what we’re doing here or was it just you just weren’t fulfilled?
Georgia: You know, sort of as I sat there and watched the cafeteria dinner cart roll by night after night and had the glow of the Excel spreadsheet, I just was looking for something to feed my soul again. You know, I had grown up on the same land that my great-grandfather lived on. I was lucky in a sense that I really had a deep connection to my roots to where I come from. You know, I grew up using crushed berries and grass as my ink in painting and hanging from vines until they fell and making wreaths. And so I was looking for a way to sort of get back to my roots and sort of that DIY improvisational spirit of our grandparents’ generation.
Glenn: My daughter said…she came over. She’s been making apple butter with my wife…and she had a baby. She was a New Yorker, you know, just loves it, always wanted to live there. Moved down here, and she had a baby, and she said, “Dad, I just need to know how to can. I need to know how to make things from scratch”—total change but a natural change.
Georgia: Absolutely. It’s sort of a natural human instinct. You know, we all used to know how to…our grandparents, at least, used to know how to weed and dig and, you know, preserve and can. It was sort of just a way of life. It’s, you know, what I call manual literacy, and I think we live in a culture now where we’re surfing that information highway, you know, living in a virtual reality where it’s sort of everything is fast-paced. We’re not really connecting on a human level, and I think the more that we get back in touch with that, I think the more grounded we are, the more satisfying it is. We’re better to one another. We’re better to the land around us, I think.
Glenn: I find it interesting that we are…I just bought an old from the 70s, and it’s nothing special. It was just original engine with no computers on it at all. And I want to learn with my sons how to fix…I’m not handy at all. I have no idea.
Georgia: I love it. That’s great.
Glenn: But we laid underneath the car. It’s an old Toyota Land Cruiser, and we laid underneath it, and all of us just underneath and just looking up and going “I have no idea what that is,” just trying to figure out what things were.
Georgia: How fun is that to learn? I mean, it’s so satisfying. I realized at some point that I had a college degree, but I don’t know how to fix my own toilet. And it’s sort of like why not face those vulnerabilities? Not because we shouldn’t be vulnerable, but because there’s something really satisfying about sort of pushing through that and learning.
Glenn: I would imagine that a lot of people thought you were crazy for leaving, right?
Georgia: Yeah. I mean, I had spent all that money on an education, and I just sort of said I’m leaving it all.
Glenn: And then you went to France for another education.
Glenn: Le Cordon Bleu?
Georgia: I actually went to culinary school in New York, and then I cooked at a restaurant, a Michelin restaurant in the south of France, and I literally, I slept in a sort of rundown house under a tablecloth I had stolen from the restaurant. I had three green frogs living in my bathroom, and it couldn’t have been further away from that sort of glamorous life or, “glamorous,” in quotes, I should say.
Glenn: Did you ever regret it at that time?
Georgia: I loved it. I loved it so much it didn’t feel like work. And I knew that’s why it was right. And while I was there, that’s when Lehman Brothers collapsed, and I just knew in that moment it was the best decision I could’ve made because I felt like I was alive again. I was feeding my soul. I wasn’t feeding my bank account, but I was feeding my soul.
Glenn: What was your pivot point? What was the thing where you hit and you said you know what, this is not who I am?
Georgia: I just think it was one of those nights when I was just sitting there really late into the night at my cubicle and the fluorescent glow of the computer screen, I just thought to myself this can’t be the answer, you know? This can’t be the rest of my life. And I realized that the longer I stayed in it, the harder it was going to be to leave. You know, I think we get used to sort of these creature comforts, and I was looking at the people that were older than me that were sort of stuck. And then look what happened. They lost all their money.
Glenn: So you were on with Dana, what, a couple weeks ago?
Glenn: Yeah, you were on with Dana, and you had a women’s event where, you know, you invited people to come out and learn to be you. And we were talking before we went on the air. Tell me about the people you met.
Georgia: So one of the sort of unlikely things that happened when I started doing what I do is that I started getting e-mails from women around the world, and they were sort of…a lot of them were saying I think you can help me, and that really surprised me. And they would share their stories of vulnerability, things they were going through in life, cancer, major life traumas, and they asked if they could go on an adventure with me. And I was sort of surprised at first. I thought why me? But I realized that in a sense they could relate to me because I had lived that corporate life. I didn’t grow up living off the land always. I didn’t live that life currently.
Glenn: Scary for people who don’t—
Georgia: Yeah, and so I basically just started what I call “adventure getaways” for women, and they’re around the country. I host them a few times a year, and it’s one of the most amazing things that I get to do because I meet these women who really are there to roll up their sleeves and experience life more viscerally, step outside their comfort zone and face those vulnerabilities.
I just had one woman come who told me that she’d actually died for 45 minutes, and she came back to life. And when she came back to life, it took a while to recover fully, but it just changed the way that she wanted to live her life. It changed her perspective on what was important, and she was there to face more fears, to do things that she’d never done before. And that’s just so special and empowering to see those women doing that.
Glenn: How fantastic of an experience for you.
Georgia: Yeah, it’s totally a blessing that I get to do that and especially a blessing when I hear from parents about their young daughters looking up to me or realizing…I had one I’ll never forget. An uncle wrote to me and said that his daughter was no longer depressed, and it was because she realized that there was nothing that girls couldn’t do, and I had made her realize that. And I think that’s what makes me hop out of bed every morning, you know, thinking that so many young women especially don’t have role models these days and don’t get to—
Glenn: Not good role models. I’m tired of people saying that they’re feminists and, you know, this girl power and stuff, but they’re eviscerating what it is to be a woman.
Georgia: You can be distinctly feminine and still roll up your sleeves in the world.
Glenn: Right, and you don’t have to hate men, and you don’t have to be against things.
Georgia: It doesn’t have to be an angry thing.
Glenn: No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t. Okay, when we come back, I gave a challenge of…I can’t have tomatoes. I can’t have pasta. I can’t have bread. I can’t have anything. I can’t have anything, and so you said, “What do you miss?” And because I live with an Italian woman, I said pasta, pasta. Make that without any of the ingredients.
Georgia: Game on. I accept your challenge.
Watch the cooking challenge take place below:
1 stalk celery
1 small white onion
1 carrot, peeled
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 pounds ground wild boar
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
½ cup red wine
¼ cup marsala
4 cups crushed tomatoes
1 pound pasta, cooked according to package instructions
6 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
In a food processor, combine the celery, onion and carrot and blend finely. Set aside.
In a large heavy bottomed pot over medium flame, heat the oil. Add the meat and brown it for about 10 minutes until cooked and releasing its juices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add the vegetable mixture and sweat further until softened, about another 10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, garlic, and bay leaf, and stir.
Deglaze the pan with red wine and Marsala. scrape up the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to distribute the flavor.
Add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaf, stir and partly cover. Let simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
Serve over your favorite pasta or rice and garnish with fresh basil and oregano leaves.
*For Glenn's crazy diet version:
Substitute the tomatoes with roasted beets and carrots and Acorn Squash.
Substitute the red wine and marsala with chicken stalk and coconut milk
Substitute the pasta with spaghetti squash and zucchini