As the hard-driving founder of a worldwide footwear company, Pam Gelsomini perfected the skills of pleasing customers and winning signatures on contracts.
But as a young girl growing up part of the time on Block Island in Rhode Island, she developed a love of cooking and serving delicious foods culled from land and sea.
Now Gelsomini, 50, is fusing her culinary and competitive drives to win raves from food critics and prizes at major cooking competitions.
“I’m definitely competitive by nature,” said Gelsomini, the mother of two who retired last year from the business she founded making insoles for internationally known shoe companies. “A lot of that carries over to my cooking.”
Gelsomini cooks daily in her well-appointed kitchen, creating recipes that blend traditional ingredients with culinary techniques gleaned from her worldwide travels as a businesswoman.
She’s also earned a passel of awards at big cooking contests.
Gelsomini recently won Rhode Island’s Stuffie Smackdown with her scrumptious seafood stuffed quahoags. She also salted away first prize and a $5,000 check at the National Cornbread Festival in Tennessee with her Too Gouda To Be True Corncakes with Pacetta Laced Seafood Cream Sauce.
On the strength of that success, Gelsomini was invited to participate in the World Food Championships in November in Alabama.
Her biggest fans, besides her husband Nick and son Andrew, 18 and daughter Laura, 14, may be neighbors in her Wrentham neighborhood who she loves to invite to football or dinner parties and outdoor cookouts.
“I love cooking for people,” she says.
Gelsomini’s formative memories of cooking began in childhood, especially during summers on Block Island where she still spends part of her time.
“I’ve been going to Block Island since I was a kid,” she said. “My grandmother and my mother were both great cooks. And my father was a great fisherman. So there were lots of striped bass.”
Gelsomini, a talented oil painter, studied art at Syracuse University but her life veered in the direction of business. Eventually she founded Ortholite supplying major shoe manufacturers. She sold the business last year.
Traveling throughout Asia and Europe on business exposed Gelsomini to a wide range of culinary styles, especially French cooking and wine. Many of those influences she brought back and began including in her own recipes.
Color and creativity are hallmarks of Gelsomini’s cooking in which everything looks and tastes good, only moreso and with unexpected flavor combinations.
Her prize-winning seafood and corncakes dish combines savory shrimp and creamy sauce with the smokiness from her corncakes. Her piled-high chicken pot pie recipe features a crumbly crust and contents packed with creamy chicken and vegetables.
For some people, a life-changing event like selling off a major business success might elicit the question, “what now?”
Not for Gelsomini, who says she’s already moving forward re-inventing herself as a food expert and an active competitor in the world of cooking contests. She already has a website, a blog and a PR consultant. There are plans for a cookbook, sponsors and possibly a seasonings line.
After years of globe-trotting and tending to the business of a large company, Gelsomini is enjoying all aspects of her life including being a homemaker and mom. She’s even returning to the easel to resume her love affair with painting.
A sign she displays on her dining room table says it best.
“Live fearlessly, laugh joyfully, love tenderly.”
And, one might add, dine deliciously.
Pamela Gelsomini’s website can be found at dishofftheblock.com. Her blog, Pamela Gelsomini’s Dish Off The Block, is on Facebook.