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An Interview with Melissa Llarena

Nov 10, 2020

Gabriele Corcos is the Creator, host, and producer of Extra Virgin on Cooking Channel/Food Network, an NYT Bestselling author, as well as a James Beard Award Recipient, and Food Futurist.  

He joins me on the podcast this week for a rich conversation about his decision to change course and move back to his hometown in the Tuscan countryside with his family. During our time together we explored the notion of how changing course does help you confront new challenges and learn more about yourself. This option is always available, it is never too late. Gabriele’s interest in technology and utilizing it to live off the land is fascinating. He helps us reimagine ways to incorporate technology into what feels like a traditional endeavor.  We also discussed being practical versus continuing to dream. Join us for this thought-provoking and inspiring conversation.  

Here’s more about Gabriele and his career journey: Gabriele has never been a great student. Born to a surgeon and a schoolteacher, he was raised with high expectations. He had to fulfill my role in society.  According to his parents, that only could be achieved by earning a college degree. He gave it his best shot. Gabriele even enlisted in the Italian Army and studied medicine for several years.  Yet, Gabriele freaked out when he approached graduation and deployment simultaneously. 

Gabriele decided to devote himself to music. He sold his Ducati, his treasured motorcycle, which totally broke his heart, and left for Brazil to study drums. Gabriele kept traveling for a time, studying with drumming masters in Cuba and around Europe.   He has spent time in wonderful places and has had the opportunity to perform with great talent. Gabriele’s barn in Fiesole became a small museum of drums from all over the world.  Gabriele thought he finally found himself. Music set him free! 

Then one day, in Florence, Gabriele met Debi Mazar, and she swept him away. They fell in love with the hot summer of 2001. He hugged his family goodbye and moved to California.  For the first time in his life, HE LEFT HIS FARM BEHIND without plans of returning anytime soon. 

Once Gabriele arrived in the US It did not take him too long to realize that what he always had taken for granted, what he had always considered an inevitable boring and physically demanding part of his life in the Tuscan countryside would be an incredible asset on which he could build a career. Like most Italian men he was raised in front of the stove and already spent most of his life cooking.  

Once again, Gabriele reinvented himself. All the work he had done in the vineyard, in the olive tree orchard, in his grandmother’s vegetable garden, all the stories, and recipes he had learned from generations of women in my family, all the heritage traditions he was exposed to by the farmers, the hunters, and their wives… all these lives again in the work Gabriele does, the recipes he cooks, and the way he celebrates Tuscany. This is perfect for anyone who has contemplated leaving a big city for life in the countryside of Italy. Gabriele has lived in both settings and now he is starting a new chapter of his life along with Debi Mazar his wife on the path towards restoring his family’s estate in the countryside.  


  • What has changed in the old country Tuscan countryside over the last 20 years. (6:57)
  • How New York City compares to other cities in the world through the lens of a restauranteur/chef.  Plus, NYC vs. California and building a cocoon or being open to confronting yourself to people.  (9:04)
  • Learning how to cook and leverage his talent despite not being a classically trained chef. (10:36)
  • Needing to sell as many dishes as pasta to meet a quota vs. sharing a glass of wine and leaving you fulfilled – cooking as an act of love and how NY striped this away after 5 years with his Brooklyn-based restaurant. (12:48)
  • What’s next after owning an NYC restaurant and how
  • Gabriele wishes to explore tech + farming + hospitality. (15:54)
  • Advice to his daughters on how to chart their own career paths – the value of clean air and arable land. (22:21)
  • How New York helped him discover his own ambitions. (23:57)
  • Gabriele shares how he was raised by a surgeon and therefore he was on the path to becoming a doctor in the Italian Army. (24:54)
  • However, he chose not to sign his life away to continue on his Army path and worked to build his music career around the world. (26:29)
  • His decision to switch from music to the food business and TV production in California – and we explore the notion of when what you know is not enough to be competitive. (27:28)
  • Changing lives is scary but he likes the fight and learns more every time – now he is in the country and he is not a farmer, so this is a new experience for him too. (30:57) 
    How he thinks about careers – you should feel attracted and compelled about your work, exhausted but excited about your work. (39:33)
  • Gabriele’s desire to use modern technology, for things like Climate Change, in the traditional Italian countryside. (41:31)
  • What can be passed down to the next generation other than another luxury hotel with a helipad? (49:13)
  • Food should not be discriminated against. (50:59)
  • Changing lives helps you know yourself better…you keep confronting yourself with new things, you just need to be courageous and it’s a luxury or privilege. (50:10)
  • How do you pick one interest to follow and focus on? (55:02)
  • When his dream becomes a reality on his family estate what would his dream be for the kids who visit? (1:01:32)
  • Finding your place in the world is one of the hardest things to do. (1:02:00)
  • Love requires sacrifices…needing to be a dad vs. going on tour with Shakira. (1:08:08) 

Links to quench your curiosity: