In this series, I will share the paths of women who are doing their thing and doing it well.
I am inspired by women who get out there and make things happen- particularly in the health and wellness field. It can be really intimidating and confusing when trying to forge a path in industries that often don't have a clear path to success. This takes courage, grit, dedication and of course, a clear vision. I have asked several women who inspire me to share their story and their path. Introducing the BadAss ♀ Series that focuses on women who are kicking ass and making things happen in their fields.
I couldn't think of a better person to kick this series off than Stephanie Goldfinger. She is a mover and a maker and has an excitement for what she does that is contagious.
Vegetarian Comfort Food Maker + Teacher | Venice, CA
Tell us about your path to holistic wellness, what brought you to this moment?
It’s been a long and winding road, with a seemingly random collection of career twists. I started off with a degree in psychology from the University of Michigan. Then I moved to LA and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life so started folding clothes at an eponymous boutique, and was soon thereafter tasked with creating and running their e-commerce department. After 4 years there and at another spot, I went out on my own and started my own web design company. I have always loved design and art, and this was a surprising way to express my creativity. But after a few years of endless all-nighter projects and nightmare clients, I was burned out.
Even though I was good at my job and it afforded my rent, I didn’t have any passion for what I was doing. I found myself taking longer and longer breaks in the middle of these massive code-a-thons to cook elaborate meals for friends or spending hours wandering the farmers market. In those moments, I felt alive, I felt peace, and I felt real-deal-you’ve-found-the-one kind of love. The more I cooked and entertained and taught my friends how to whip up a fabulous meal, the more people saw the light inside me turn on, and the more they tried to hire me to cater dinner parties and teach them how to cook. And one day, I woke up and decided that I would not spend one more moment of my life doing something that didn’t make me feel exactly that kind of joy. So I created my company, Cooking for Luv, where I set out to share my love of hearty, soul-nourishing, plant-based food that warms the heart and pleases even the most carnivorous of appetites. I was terrified. Everything I’ve ever done in my career has been self- taught and I’ve always leaped before I looked, and this was no exception. I never went to culinary school and had no idea how to run a food-based company - but I did it anyway because it just felt right. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where the kitchen was king and where family meals were the moments where we really connected. I learned from my Southern and British grandmas and my parents how to make heart-warming comfort food, and that the love you put into creating a meal shows itself times infinity on the plate. So I just committed to taking that type of food and concept of injecting love into every plate to my clients, and doing it with my whole being. And go figure, once I started living what I love, life started to fall into place. I’ve appeared on the Food Network, worked with national brands, taught at companies like Hulu and YouTube, cooked for celebrities - and it all feels incredibly surreal. It’s so strange to me to not feel the universe’s resistance along my path anymore, and often wish I would have been cooking all along, but I know I never would be where I am today if I hadn’t gone through the years of wandering and struggle to get to this beautiful and true place.
What are 3 things you cannot live without and why?
- My Little Shih-tzu Bug: she brings me an unending supply of love and cuddles, calms me when I am stressed, and reminds me through her joy that there is something new and awesome in every blade of grass and ray of sunshine.
- Beach Volleyball: it is my physical outlet and a place to work on taming my overly-competitive side, it’s my meditation practice, and my much needed time in the sun after being inside the kitchen all week.
- My Benriner Mandolin: nothing makes a more wildly-even slice faster than my trusty mandolin. It saves me a ton of time in the kitchen and makes my food look super fancy.
How do you nourish yourself daily?
I cook. It’s so strange to me after all these years to have my work be the same as my happy place, but it’s so true. It combines all of the things I love into one nourishing experience.
What is your go-to favorite meal?
I absolutely love tacos. There are endless possibilities for fillings and sauces and toppings and they’re a quick and comforting go-to when I’m tired from a long day of cooking for other people or hours of playing volleyball on the beach.
What is your personal/professional philosophy?
Be authentic, vulnerable, and do unto others as you would want done to you. It never fails to amaze me the connections you can make with others and the affect you have on people when you are open, honest, loving, and give without expectation of anything in return.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your life’s work?
The simple beauty of the produce in the farmers markets, restaurants where I am blown away by unexpected combinations or old flavor profiles turned new, and food memories from childhood.
How do you measure success?
When I feel in balance between work and play, when I feel like I am moving in the flow of the universe rather than fighting it, when I feel like all my struggles and hard work along this journey start to make sense as a larger more complete picture, and when I feel the people around me happy and nourished.
How do you work to elevate women around you?
I work as a mentor with EmpowHer, a program for middle school girls in underserved communities in LA, helping them grow into strong women that will beat the odds to graduate high school and go on to be inspiring women in their communities.
I also run a little brain-trust group for fellow “girl bosses” where we work together to support each other in our personal and professional lives- where we all live by the adage that it takes a village. I had a hard time in high school with “mean girls”, and it has affected me greatly throughout life. I never want others to go through what I did, as kids or adults, so I preach and practice wholeheartedly the concept of community over competition. I feel strongly that helping other women can only bring more light to my world- there is room for all of us to be massive successes in love and work if we lift each other up instead of tear each other down.
Closing wisdom or inspiring quote you would like to share?
“What is done in love is done well.” –Vincent van Gogh
What’s coming up for you, how can we connect with you?
I’m beyond excited for the next chapter of my career, where all of my seemingly unconnected twists and turns in my life are coming together into one dream world.
I just opened a culinary-focused community where the makers and tasters of Los Angeles can come together to create, collaborate, and connect all under one roof. Part co-working community for bloggers, chefs, and artisans; part studio kitchens for budding YouTube stars and culinary instructors; part members-only food-focused social club with events like pop-up dinners, chefs battles, and tastings; and part large event space for anything from launch parties to weddings.
Check it out at www.stageandtable.com and sign up for a membership to join the ecosystem.
I also have a web series for the amazing vegan brand Follow Your Heart, where you can see me teaching some fun, healthy recipes (and being a total goof) on-screen. You can find my class schedule and recipes at www.cookingforluv.com and stay connected with me on Instagram @cookingforluv and Facebook. To book a class or have me cook for you, email me at email@example.com