Interview: Local Girl Makes Good Food! #Petaluma’s Laurie Figone is the World Dessert Champ

Last year Laurie Figone, born and raised on a ranch just outside of Petaluma, was declared the 2014 World Dessert Champion. In the last five years Figone has made a name for herself in the cooking world, where she shows her Petaluma pride by using local products. Figone has also been on the NBC TODAY Show and on TNT with Emeril Lagasse and Ty Pennington. For more information on that see our previous posts about Laurie  VIDEO UPDATE: #Petaluma’s Laurie Figone gets her shot on the big screen on TNT’s “On The Menu” and  VIDEO: #Petaluma’s Laurie Figone Appears on Good Day Sacramento.

Laurie Figone grew up on her family's ranch and always enjoys coming back
Laurie Figone grew up on her familys ranch and always enjoys coming back

Growing up on a ranch and having large weekly family dinners with at least 30 people gave Figone a passion for cooking and food. Figone speaks fondly about these dinners saying, “My grandmother loved doing all the cooking … I, growing up, wanted to be down at the barn feeding calves but my mother kept me in the house. I hated it at the time but now I have to say I thank her because … I’ve just won another World Championship with my cooking and I never imagined any of this, truthfully.”

Taste of Home 2010 is the first cookbook in which one of Laurie Figones recipe’s was published
Taste of Home 2010 is the first cookbook in which one of Laurie Figones recipe’s was published

Figone’s professional cooking started five years ago when a neighbor helped her realize her talent. Figone was baking focaccia bread for one of her neighbors to take to work and soon her neighbor’s coworkers were requesting and buying Figone’s focaccia. Figone then secretly submitted her focaccia recipe to Taste of Homes recipe contest and won. It was her first published recipe and the start of her cooking career.

The next step for Figone was participating in her first live cooking competition at the Gilroy Garlic Festival where she, again, won. From there things took off and she went on the NBC TODAY Show for their burger battle and to the Annual Bob’s Red Mill Spar for the Spurtle where she won and was sent to Scotland for the Annual World Porridge Making On The Menu Hosts Ty Pennington and Emeril LagasseChampionship. In the last year Figone was on TNT’s reality show On the Menu with Emeril Lagasse and Ty Pennington.


Poppy Tooker of Louisiana Eats! Interviews Petaluma’s Liam Callahan of Bellwether Farms

Poppy Tooker Lousiana Eats89.9 WWno’s (The University of New Orleans, New Orleans Public Radio which is a part of the NPR digital network) host Poppy Tooker on Louisiana Eats! interviews our very own Liam Callahan of Petaluma’s Bellwether Farms called Why I Decided To Keep The Family Business Alive.

In the article provides the following:

           “Of course, family dynamics aren’t isolated to Louisiana. Liam Callahan followed in his mother’s lead to become a gourmet cheesemaker in the rolling hills of Petaluma, California and traveled as far as Italy to sharpen his skills. His family’s dairy has been providing sheep’s cheese to high-end stores and fining dining restaurants for roughly two decades, including the all-local, all-seasonal restaurant of Chez Panisse. Their head chef Cal Peternell has brought his family through the restaurant so often, it’s hard for him to distinguish between his domestic and professional families”

Poppy did a fantastic job of this interview and I learned a lot about how Bellwether Farms makes their world-class cheeses. (This is an audio only. For the full interview you can click on the article link above)

Here is another nice short video we found that was done about three years ago by David Carstens

Positively #Petaluma Interview With Actor Adrian Grenier

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An August 23 Facebook post by Adrian Grenier caused a big stir in Petaluma. His post garnered over 1000 “Likes” and several comments and shares by Petalumans. His status showed him with friends at our annual Taste of Petaluma with comment “Rockin’ #TasteOfPetaluma w/@catatomic @rbcsavage awesome delicious day”.  This caused Positively Petaluma to want to find out more and share his experience here.

Adrian Grenier visited our town and attended our annual event while visiting family friends. The following interview was completed while Adrian was in Greece and would not have been possible without the help of Laura Sunday who hosted Adrian during his stay in Petaluma.  Adrian is an actor, producer, director and musician most notable playing the lead role of Vincent Chase in the Emmy nominated HBO original series Entourage.  In this interview Adrian tells us about his experience here in Petaluma and a documentary he is working on.

Wayne: You played the role of Anne Hathaway’s boyfriend Nate who was a chef in the movie Devil Wears Prada. Petaluma has a lot of talented chefs and has quickly become a culinary destination according to a recent KRON 4 and Yelp report. You had the opportunity to experience our Taste of Petaluma.  Which part of the culinary and craft spirits experience did you like best? Food, beer or the wine?

Adrian: All three. I love a festival that celebrates locally grown goods. But it’s not all about the food, if it was we’d all be shuffling around eating silently. An event like this is all about friends coming together. Food is a big part of my life. My mother has a great devotion to good tasting things. I like to think I surround myself with people who care about what they eat. It makes life more enjoyable.

Bellyfull’s CEO Kelly O’Grady Is Her First Best Customer

The word entrepreneur means a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so. Kelly O’Grady was an entrepreneur way before she cooked up the idea of Bellyfull Dinners. This young self-starter learned the art of feeding many mouths in her youth when her parents would entertain guests.  The food however was not her mainstay it was watching her father start new ventures and grow businesses. She credits her father with teaching her business and while growing up Kelly learned how to create a business instead of work for one.  She started working at the age of 14 and as a young adult eventually evolved her career into sales.  So she not only learned how to get around in the kitchen, but she developed serious business skills.

Bellyfull Dinners was created in October last year and they launched their website in February 2014.  Last month Bellyfull delivered their 1000th meal to customers.  In this interview you will learn more about this rising star in our community.

Kelly O'Grady-4Wayne: It seems entrepreneurship is in your fabric.  How early did you know that you were an entrepreneur?

Kelly: I think I always knew that’s what I was meant to be. I started young. When I was 5, at Christmas time I’d go and pick Mistletoe from my uncle’s farm and sell it out in front of Safeway. As I got more creative I started making up fake catalogs for my mom that had choices like different purses and shirts she could buy. She would order them and then I would actually sew them for her. I got my first real job when I was 14 at Cardoza’s pumpkin patch as the chainsaw man in the haunted house and I haven’t stopped working since. Even in high school as a senior I worked 30 or more hours a week at Petaluma Coffee and Tea Co. and went to school graduating in the top 10% of my class. Although I was more than qualified, I didn’t go to college mainly because I wanted to pay for it on my own (without my parents, or debt) and eventually I got so good at my sales career it just didn’t make sense. I know everything I’ve done has given me the skills and abilities I need to bring this business to life. I’m very driven and learn quickly. I started my career in sales when I was 17 at Petaluma Wireless selling cell phones. I loved sales. From there I went on to be a new business specialist and sales account managers for a few different companies in Sonoma County.

UPDATE: Saving and Raising Lives: An Interview with Lt. Jaclyn Cuevas Trosper

Lt. Jaclyn Cuevas Trosper awarded Nurse of The Month

UPDATE: 10/29/2014 Lt. Trosper returns to U.S. soil in a very emotional and heart warming reception from her family.  She was due to come home sooner but was delayed after a knee injury with a complete tear in her ACL during combat training. Here is the post on facebook and video of her homecoming at the airport.



Recently we posted a story in the Petaluma Magazine about NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit hospital team that saved the life of a Romanian Soldier at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.  On March 30, 2014 this soldier suffered what would be fatal injuries after being struck by an IED.  The blast resulted in the death of another soldier and critically wounding four others who suffered from various injuries. What interested us about this article was a #Petaluman Lt. J.C. Trosper, aka Jaclyn Cuevas Trosper, is an intensive care unit and trauma nurse who was quoted in that article.  It was her team that worked to save the life of this soldier. This week Lt. Trosper received nurse of the month award by her commanding officer.

Pro-Cyclist and Braniac!: An Interview with #Petaluma’s Alison Tetrick

Photo by Jonathan Devich

Alison Tetrick is new to Petaluma, but not to the lifestyle.  Growing up on a ranch she rode horses before bicylces. It was when she was a triathlete that her passion would turn to cycling. Five years ago something clicked and she realized she was made to ride. After each competition Alison looks forward to coming home to Petaluma and enjoying her surroundings. Alison rides for the TWENTY16 Pro Cycling Team in Marin County.  At  the end of this interview, you will see a list of her accomplishments, and find out why she made “Carmichael List” which for cyclists is like receiving an Academy Award.

Alison Tetrick

Wayne:  Your bio says you grew up on a ranch and rode horses before you rode bikes.  What lessons did you learn from growing up on a ranch that you practice in your life today?

Alison:  I was born in Solvang, California, and grew up on a ranch outside of Los Alamos, California until my family moved to a ranch outside of Redding, California in 1998.  Living outside of “town” created an irreplaceable relationship with my family because we relied on each other for everything.  My sister and I used our imaginations to create entertainment far beyond any television or movie could provide.  I learned the value of hard work and that success in life doesn’t come easily, but it comes from dreaming bigger than the sky and working hard to achieve those dreams.  My sister is my very best friend, and I think we have a very close relationship because of our childhood on the ranch.

Wayne: Do you have any interesting stories to share about growing up on a ranch?

Alison: I learned how to ride a horse long before I learned to ride a bike.  I would have to crawl up on the fence to reach the stir-ups to get on the horse.  I remember rounding up the cows on the ranch and how it was a family affair.  We all had specific jobs, and even though I was young, I always felt my job was just as important.  By working together, the family could keep the ranch running optimally.  Sometimes my jobs would be as simple as feeding the chickens, or checking on the water, but looking back, these were all lessons in toughness, responsibility, and family.

Update: Handmade Dolls To Stories For Children: An Interview with Jess Brown

UPDATE: 10/21/2015  Doll House: Jess Brown builds a doll-making empire in Petaluma 

Update: 8/16/2014 Mother Magazine recently featured INSIDE DOLL MAKER JESS BROWN’S WORLD on August 5, 2014 written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano.  In this post there are a lot a great photos of Jess’s home and children.

In our searches for great things happening in Petaluma, it’s hard not to run into an article about Jess Brown.  Her signature rag dolls are known internationally and she recently released another storybook for children.  Growing up in New York and Marin County, she decided to make her home and start her business in Petaluma.  Jess tells us that Petaluma is a magnet for creative people and supports entrepreneurial-ism mixed with art.  The Jess Brown label for her handmade rag dolls have caught international attention by big designer names as well as popular magazines like Vogue and Martha Stewart Living. In this interview you will get to know Jess Brown more and how this hard working mom balances her busy life.



Wayne:  What first inspired you to make dolls?

Jess: I had begun making dolls for my daughter when she was a baby (now almost 16)

Wayne: Do your children have a favorite doll that they have kept over the years?

Jess: Both kids have a nice collection of dolls from the time they were babies until now. They each have favorites

Wayne:  Do they have names for them?

Jess: Stella’s favorite is “Mimma”. Tiger’s favorite is “Clyde”

Wayne: Where did you grow up?

Jess: I grew up half in New York and half in Marin County

Herding cows on motorcycles to pro racing internationally: An interview with Shelina Moreda

Born and raised on a dairy farm in #Petaluma, this was the landscape for which she first learned how to ride motorcycles.  She rode motorcycles out of necessity rather than for pleasure. Her love for riding on two wheels came when she got her first motocross bike and was able to take advantage of having fun on them in the open fields on their ranch.   It was here she dreamed of becoming a motorcycle racer.  For road racing she only became part of it as a fan watching Petaluma’s Bostrom brothers (Ben and Eric), known by other racers as “The Boz Bros”.  She not only idolized them, but Eric became a role model for her when she became part of the same racing team Parker Brammo.

In racing sports there is always someone right on your tail trying to beat your personal best.  However there are some firsts that no other female will ever take away from Shelina.   In this interview you will learn about them and some other things about her you will not find anywhere else.   She’s loves her home town and often appreciates it more when she travels.  Following is an interview that I conducted with her after recently finishing the LARRs Qatar Superbike Championship in the Middle East to learn more about this amazing young rising star in this fast sport on two wheels.  At the conclusion of this interview you will find out about a local camp that she is hosting for young racers, and a recent video interview on Wall Street Journal Live: Shelina Moreda: The Next Danica Patrick on Two Wheels?

Wayne: You were recently in the Middle East, was this your first time?  Tell us about your experience there.

Shelina: I’ve been to Qatar 3 times now for racing, and had never been there before racing. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was first asked to go there to race for the QMMF Racing Team, but I’m always excited about new adventures, so of course I dove in to this one head first too. Qatar is a huge supporter and promoter of sports, so my experience there reflected that. I am treated so well when I am in Qatar by everyone associated with racing there. I joke and say I feel like a Motorcycle Princess when I’m there, but it’s only partly a joke. I feel like I’m really in my element in Qatar. There is a ton to do before and after the races and I’m always given time to explore. I got to visit the “Old Souq” market and try all kinds of candies and local foods, got to ride quads in the Arabian desert, got to check out their malls and went on a boat ride in their beautiful blue ocean. Even driving around there is interesting, the buildings are all being worked on constantly and it’s a completely different experience than here in the states. I’m all about the experience.

Shelina Left: Photo Credit to Viktoria Kis
Shelina Left: Photo Credit to Viktoria Kis

Wayne: You recently finished the LARRs Qatar Superbike Championship how was the competition and how did you ride?

Shelina: The LAARS Championship is such an honor to be a part of. The Losail track is world class, we get to race at night under the lights and it’s just a spectacular experience for me. Racing at night is my favorite. They invited 5 of the fastest girls from each of 5 different countries to come race against the Qatari guys in the LARRS series and this makes the competition there pretty stiff. I’m proud to be racing against such great competition. For me, starting midway through the season meant I had to catch on quick. My first race weekend was great, my second was a struggle, and by our final round I started to find my groove. I wrapped up the season with 2nd place in one race and a crash out of 2nd in the next, securing 3rd overall in the Championship, with a trophy that I’m extremely proud of.

Wayne: I understand this was your first time racing at night, did that make if more challenging?

Shelina: I love riding at night, so racing at night is something I’ve wanted to do since I wanted to race. For me I love the ambiance of riding at night. It’s the coolest feeling ever. The lights at Losail are really great, so it’s not hard to see the track or anything. But when you look up at that black Arabian sky… it’s amazing and I could live in that moment for a long long time. It makes it more rewarding, more satisfying.

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An interview with Shelina Moreda Cont: Her roots in #Petaluma

Wayne: Did you grow up in Petaluma?  What do you like best about Petaluma?

Shelina: I was born and raised in Petaluma on the West Side on a Dairy farm. I love everything about Petaluma and the more I travel the more I realize that. It’s beautiful and has a small town feel, even still, and the old Petaluma families are all pretty tight-knit. I couldn’t do anything wrong growing up or the Dolcinis, the Cordas or the Chedas would go tell on me. I love that we are close enough to the city that I got to learn both worlds, country and city, but got all the values that growing up in a farm-town has to offer. I loved showing at the fairs and having a really short drive to the beach. I also love the community feel that Petaluma has.

Wayne: How did you get into it motorcycle racing?

Shelina: I blame it on my parents for telling me that I could do anything in life that I want to do…. I took them seriously and went for it. They taught me to work hard, and it’s a good thing because racing is way more work than I ever thought it would be. We always rode motorcycles on the ranch, Dad put us to work bringing the cows in with them, and he just didn’t have any idea what he was starting. I got a dirt bike when I was 12 and we watched AMA road racing out at Sears Point. I had all the Pro riders posters on my wall and just decided that’s where I wanted to be.  I snuck home with a street bike when I was 17, started riding on the back roads and up Highway 1 and one day decided to go seriously chase my dreams. I went pro only a year and a half after that day.

Wayne: Where did you graduate from High School?   What was your favorite subject and teacher?

Shelina: That’s a tough one… I graduated from Petaluma High and I think I’d have to say that in high school, my favorite teacher was probably Mr. King, my welding teacher. He was so strict, but such a good teacher. He expected a lot of us, and he saw a fire in me. He pushed me to compete, brought me to welding competitions and even helped get me my first welding job at Martin Ranch Supply in Rohnert Park. I ended up becoming a certified welder while I was in college. Not only did Mr. King give me a skillset that I used in “real life” but he also taught me to push my limits, expect more, and to be the best at what I did. He didn’t accept less, and I admire that.

Wayne: When did you start racing?

Shelina: I only started racing 5 1/2 years ago. I’m still relatively new actually. I never rode at the track before I raced or anything.

Wayne: Who is your inspiration for the sport?

Shelina: For one, my Dad, if he wasn’t a dairyman he’d be a pro flat track racer. He’s so fast. I love riding with him too, we love spending that time together. Also all the guys I used to watch on TV and have on my wall… the Bostrom Brothers (from Petaluma), Aaron Yates, Steve Rapp, the Haydens. I really always looked up to those guys. It’s pretty awesome, I’m friends with most of them now and they give me racing tips.

Wayne: How did your mother and father feel about you putting on leathers and spinning around tracks at high speeds on two wheels?

Shelina: They didn’t like it at first. Not one bit actually. Not only for the danger but also the cost, it’s really expensive to get into racing and they made it clear that they would not help me out in that department. My parents are very business savvy and they didn’t see going racing as a smart business decision. They’ve always morally supported me in all of my [sometimes a little crazy] decisions though, and they came around on this one too. I think Dad was sold when I became the first female ever to race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a motorcycle, and Mom was sold the first time she got to go to Italy with me because of my racing. Now they are my go-to’s on a lot of my racing decisions and they help me a lot with the Girlz MotoCamps that I started.

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