Radiance Gabriella Bellavita
It all started - over 20 years ago - with amazing friends and a heart-shaped waffle iron…
Large gatherings of loved ones and new friends were de rigueur in my childhood. Anti-nuclear protests, equality marches, and hippie gatherings lent reason for meals en masse; whether because of financial necessity or the notion of a utopian society, potlucks were a regular occurrence. Bountiful platters of freshly harvested vegetables, whole grains, and pies would garner oohs and ahs followed by live music, laughter, and if we were lucky, an outdoor fire. Rather than the processed foods found on many tables, I was exposed to the beginning of the whole & organic food movement and global cuisine. While I am now grateful for the healthy and less-than-traditional upbringing, I have to admit, in kindergarten I traded my marinated tofu and sprout sandwich on homemade wheat bread for a Twinkie (I suppose the grass is always greener). Perhaps due to my Italian and French heritage these parties – the great food, the joyous activity, the hospitality – spoke to me even if I was too young to realize it at the time.
Upon high school graduation, my girlfriends gave me the aforementioned heart-shaped waffle iron, which lead to regular brunches. We’d don pretty floral dresses, set the table with a single flower and dine on layers and layers of waffles with fresh berries, real whipped cream and crème anglaise. Champagne was the only thing missing from those early days of entertaining, but we weren’t old enough to procure bubbles - besides, we were broke.
My home became the center for dinner parties, holidays, and celebrations, which is perhaps, why I landed in the restaurant industry after art school, but really, what was a girl to do with a BFA in Dance? I went from the artistic passion of Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham to the hedonistic passion of hospitality and food. I spent the next 20 years, in Seattle, working with remarkable chefs, winemakers, distillers and lifestyle-entrepreneurs - honing my skills and developing my vision of what it takes to create memorable events.
I have been fortunate to work with some of the most talented people in the industry; each one of these mentors and peers taught me a key facet to what I believe it means to entertain and orchestrate an event:
- Peter Lewis: Founder of award winning French restaurants Campange and Café Campagne in Pike Place Market and author of Dead in the Dregs: A Babe Stern Mystery - a clever murder mystery set in wine country - gracious and humble hospitality
- Executive Chef Daisley Gordon: Iron Chef competitor and guest judge on Top Chef - the nuance of flavors and menu development
- Shawn Mead: Co-owner of Vif Wine Bar and Café - an unabashed love for Chablis and the art of finding value wines
- Alissa Leinonen: Owner/CEO of Gourmondo Catering - her business mentorship and support mean the world to me
These are but a few who have helped shape my career; there are simply too many to mention.
After so many years, I find myself back where I started, Portland, Oregon, with many of my dearest friends, the most amazing husband, two stunning teenage step-daughters, and - finally - a proper 12 person dining table! While the heart-shaped waffle iron is no longer, I am proud to say, we still enjoy a waffle brunch from time to time.
And a bit about my name (because people ask - a lot): I was a tad premature and my parents wanted to ‘get to know me’, therefore I was nameless for 3 weeks. My grandfather Gabriel - a kind, gentle and loving man with the most remarkable Italian brown eyes (they literally twinkled) - drove from Pennsylvania to Portland to meet his first grandchild. While he was holding me, one of my parents said, “Look at the radiance in his eyes.” and the other said, “That’s her name - Radiance!” As for the rest, I am simply fortunate that Gabriel Bellavita was my grandfather.