How Travel Inspired This Former Actress To Make A Major Career Change

How Travel Inspired This Former Actress To Make A Major Career Change

 

While you may have traveled to the same destination as your friends, family or social circle, it is our individual experiences that shape us, inspire us and leave an impression that cannot be replicated through someone else’s eyes. It’s an impact that lasts longer than any photograph or social media post every could.

For former actress Vikki Krinsky, who starred in shows such as Wild Card and Edgemont, travel meant change. Distraught with the pressures of staying thin in Hollywood, Krinksy booked a one-way ticket to Europe, where she ultimately shaped her newfound career as a successful private chef in Los Angeles for several well-known actors and Hollywood personalities. When you hear how she got her start (hint: a fated meeting on a train to Paris), you’re going to want to book your next vacation, stat.

Ahead, Krinsky shares her her career journey, go-to travel spots, and a recipe makeover (she’s a host on Recipe Rehab) for one of her favorite ethnic dishes from a previous vacation. How will your next trip inspire you?

Tell us a little bit about your time as an actress. How did the pressures to stay thin inspire you to make a career change?
“The truth is, I loved acting. I loved being a part of an ensemble and developing a character that wasn’t me. I loved expressing myself and creating something for girls around the world to relate to. The fan mail was like nothing I had ever experienced before. At a very young age I learned how people connect to actors, so I was grateful to have been given that powerful platform.”

“However, with my success came pressure. The pressure to look a certain way and maintain a certain weight started to affect the way I felt daily. It made me irritable and lowered my self-confidence. As a natural leader, I felt as though I was losing my footing and what mattered most.”

When did you decide to quit and make the decision to book a one-way ticket to Europe?
“I moved to Los Angeles when I was 19 while on hiatus from the second season of the Lifetime show Zoe Busiek’s Wild Card. I flew down to audition for a Disney gymnastics movie called Stick It. I tested for a couple of shows and didn’t land any roles. Basically, I was told to ‘lose five pounds and look into vaneers’ by several ‘important’ people such as agents, managers and producers. After hitting an all-time-low, I decided to take a break from acting. I was completely discouraged by my negative body image and the pressure to be thin. I thought it was a good time to explore, live the life of a backpacker and take off to Europe!”

“Alongside sweat pants and T-shirts, I brought my nutritional books, and off I went. Paris was first on my list. There I was on the train, second day in, coincidentally sitting next to a chef from a very upscale hotel restaurant. He noticed my book, and we started chatting. Next thing I know, I was in his kitchen learning how to make the famous Tarte Tatin.  I loved every minute of that experience. He was kind enough to connect me to chefs all over Europe—Amsterdam, Milan, Switzerland and London. After a little over five months of backpacking and lightly ‘staging’ in a few kitchens, I came back to Los Angeles with a new zest for food, health and cooking!”

So, you never formally went to culinary school?
“I didn’t! Happily self-taught.”

What were some of the most valuable techniques/lessons you learned during this period in your life?
“Outside of basic knife skills and chopping techniques, I learned it was extremely important to maintain a clean and tidy work area. This has been a huge lesson as a private chef. Working in celebrity homes, it’s crucial to clean as I go. Keeping everything neat and organized has helped secure my place as a reputable private chef. I also learned that ‘scraps’ should be saved for stock, sauces and dressings. Nothing goes to waste.”

When did the health-kick passion come into the mix?
“Playing competitive sports my whole life has driven me to be as fit and healthy as possible. However, it became a slight obsession after being told, several times, to lose weight. I didn’t like how I started to view food. It was unhealthy and made me unhappy. I knew at a young age I needed to turn this mentality around, and that’s when I started studying and researching nutrition and sports medicine. I recognized people wanted delicious fine-dining meals, and my passion became creating those with a nutritional twist.”

vikki

What are a couple of your most memorable dining experiences?
Blue Hill in Tarrytown, New York: “From the moment you enter the farm to the moment you leave you feel as though you’ve entered a magical dream! All of your senses are stimulated, and the primary focus on ‘farm-to-table’ is expressed throughout the entire experience.”

Lapérouse in Paris, France: “Incredibly elegant and romantic. This was the first restaurant I witnessed a decadent soufflé finished off with a pour of hot chocolate ganache — by an ever-so-handsome and professional waiter. I recognized here that service was just as important as the meal itself.”

If someone wanted to go on an epicurean/foodie vacation of their dreams, what places would you steer them to and why?
“Aside from the obvious — Italy, France and Spain — my top three places to travel solely for their food would be:

Chicago: “The Windy City has an amazing array of terrific street food and fine dining, providing a great balance.”
New York: “I eat everything while I’m there! From street pupusas to dirty-water-dogs (hot dogs) on the bustling corners of Manhattan. I leave my evenings free for anything from Barbuto or ABC Kitchen to fine dining restaurants like Le Bernardin or Eleven Madison Park.”
Israel: “Spectacular ingredients and extremely talented chefs. Israeli cuisine continues to adapt elements of various styles of cuisine. Mediterranean ingredients, as well as Sephardic and Ashkenazi styles of Jewish cooking, influence it, so it’s very flavorful and healthy.”

What tips can you offer for staying in shape while traveling, without having to give up experiencing all the amazing local cuisine?
“Keeping hydrated is incredibly important while traveling. Time change and imbalanced blood sugar levels can make you feel hungry when you’re actually dehydrated. It’s important to be sure to nibble on small amounts of high-protein, low-sugar snacks, like unsalted nuts or 85% or higher dark chocolate, every two to three hours. Also, taking advantage of active means of transportation—like riding a bicycle or walking as much as possible—is a great way to explore while burning a few extra calories.”

Recipe makeover challenge: One of the best ethnic dishes that you had on your travels.
“I had an incredible traditional tamale while in Mexico, so I decided to create a healthy ‘Krinskified’ version! Remember, portion control is your friend.”

MUFFIN TIN TAMALES
“There’s nothing like the flavors of a traditional, warm gooey, tamale, made with fresh ingredients, bursting with flavor, and all-ready to eat in a healthy portion-size cup!

vikki recipe

Serves: 4
Cook time: 40-minutes
Prep time: 15-minutes

CRUST:
4 teaspoons coconut oil
1 1/2 cups masa (Note: Masa or masa harina (or corn flour) is a very finely ground cornmeal.)
2 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken stock
½ teaspoon baking powder (aluminum free)
pinch of salt and pepper

FILLING:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 pound extra lean ground turkey
1 medium yellow onion, small dice (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, fine chop
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 15 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
½ cup low-sodium fat free chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

TOPPING:
1/3 cup low fat mozzarella cheese
½ cup plain fat free Greek yogurt
¼ cup chopped cilantro

STEPS:

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the middle.
  • Place coconut oil, masa, chicken stock, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and mix well with a spatula until combined and soft. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, salt and pepper, and break the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Stir occasionally until browned and cooked through, about four minutes. Remove the turkey with a slotted spoon to a medium bowl and set aside.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about four-minutes.
    Add the vinegar and stir to combine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle in the paprika, oregano, cumin, and cayenne, and stir until incorporated. Cook for about two-minutes.
  • Add the turkey, tomatoes, chicken broth, salt, and pepper to the pan—stir to combine. Cook for another three-minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about five-to-seven-minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat. Taste, and add a touch more salt, pepper, and cayenne if you see fit!
  • Using the muffin tin base, spray four-inch foil cups really well with olive oil spray. Take about a teaspoon of masa and spread a thin layer evenly in the cups and up the sides, being careful it’s not too thick. Add two teaspoons of the turkey mixture to the middle of the muffin tin cup. Cover the entire pan with tinfoil and bake for 20-minutes.
  • Carefully remove the tamales from the oven and sprinkle with cheese. Place back in the oven uncovered for 10-minutes. Gently run a knife around the edges and carefully flip tin cups upside down. Top with a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro!

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 390
Fat calories: 100
Total fat grams: 11
Sat fat grams: 7
Cholesterol mg: 65
Sodium mg: 970
Total carbohydrates g: 39
Fiber g: 4
Sugars g: 4
Protein g: 35

The Pros And Cons Of Renting A Vacation Home

The Pros And Cons Of Renting A Vacation Home

 

I rented my first vacation apartment eight years before Airbnb even existed, let alone became popular. It was in Paris and, even adjusted for inflation, it was a steal at just $109 a night. Between the ample size (larger than my first abode in Chicago); killer location (a stone’s throw away from Place des Vosges); and luxurious chateaux-like décor; I felt as though I had won the vacation home lottery.

My obsession continued through many of my future voyages, including several more trips to Paris exploring pads in different arrondissements; a seaside respite in Cinque Terre, Italy; a villa in the Amalfi Coast; and more. Don’t get me wrong. I love a palatial hotel just as much as the next person, right down to the serene spa, fancy bar, and breakfast in bed. But I also love to travel—a lot—so my love affair with this alternative boarding arrangement works for my bank account, while still catering to my love of interesting places.

So, because I often get asked questions about renting, I put together a list of pros, cons, and things to look out for. And remember, while my experience has been international, don’t rule out a rental for your next domestic voyage, too. After all, just think about the extra spending money you’ll have if you do.

paris apt

PROS
More bang for your buck: As mentioned, I’ve stayed in fancy apartments; an entire floor of a villa; and a seaside retreat, all for under $150 a night. Aside from the luxury of having a heck of a lot more space than a cramped hotel room at the same price, there’s also the option to save some cash by cooking a few meals on-site. Traveling with kids? Renting is a dream come true!

  • You can budget your trip: While Airbnb requires full payment upfront, many rental agencies only require a down payment at the time of booking, so it makes it easier to budget for an entire trip—especially after shucking out bucks for airfare.
  • Not cookie-cutter: An average hotel room couldn’t compare to some of the unique places that can be found via rental-by-owner. The one-of-a-kind nature of a rental property really makes the trip feel special.
  • Feel like a local: While this might be more of a pro for international travels, it is by far one of my most favorite points. Without all the noise of a hotel; a set of keys in your hand; and a refrigerator filled with goodies from the open-air market down the street; you can (temporarily) live out that fantasy of living in Paris, Rome, or wherever your wanderlust takes you. It also gives you a greater appreciation for the culture and surroundings as you’re more connected to it.

swiss

CONS

  • Check-in: There’s always a little anxiety between the time your plane lands and when you actually get to the apartment. For starters, most owners/managers want you to call to let them know you’re on the way. This can sometimes lead to a language barrier/confusion on the phone depending on your destination. Next, these places aren’t exactly lit-up with a neon sign. They can sometimes be difficult to find—even for a shuttle/cab driver. I try to combat this by looking at a Google map of the destination beforehand. This way, I’m familiar with any possible landmarks that I can use to navigate.
  • You’re on your own: Seven flights of stairs in a 17th century apartment building with no elevator? You’re on your own when it comes to schlepping your suitcases—no bellman here. I look at it as a way to burn off some extra vacation calories.
  • Security deposit: Most owners/agencies require a refundable cash security deposit, which can generally range from $50-$500. I’ve been able to negotiate leaving a signed check so that I don’t have to tie up my cash. It’s worth an ask.
  • Plan ahead for food: If you’re staying in a more remote destination, it’s best to hit the local grocery store or market the first day you arrive. Without the convenience of room service or an on-site restaurant, you’ll want to make sure you always have fresh water and some snacks on-hand. A tired, hungry traveler is not a happy one.
  • Not all handicapped accessible: Luckily, most rental websites clearly state whether or not a property is handicapped accessible. To save time on your search process, look for the filter so you can narrow down your options. Also factor in things like how easy it is to get to the property from the airport, etc. If it’s going to take a bus and two trains, it’s obviously not the best option—even if it does have an elevator.
  • Service fee: I’ve never paid a service fee, but there are some agencies that require one. Read the fine print before you even begin searching on your site if that extra cost is an issue.

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR

  • Secure payment options: Anything that sounds shady probably is. Only book using secure online payment options like PayPal. Keep in mind that some of these renters want you to pay the remaining amount, after the initial deposit, in cash. If this is an issue, ask about charging the amount to a credit card instead. There might be a small fee, but it’s worth it for peace of mind.
  • Poor email correspondence: Sorry, but if someone isn’t writing me back or answering my questions, I don’t even want to think of what’s going to happen when my plane lands and I need to pick up keys. It’s the job of the owner or agency to respond to you in a prompt and clear manner, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about transportation or amenities, or for additional images if you’re having a problem making a final decision.
  • Reviews: Dig deep into those reviews. Read every single one and look for consistencies in pros and cons. Remember, though, reviews are subjective, so if someone was complaining that the television was too small and you have no plans to watch Law & Order reruns on your vacation, take the comment with a grain of salt.
  • Do your research: Most importantly, don’t drop a deposit on the first place that tickles your fancy. There are a lot of options out there, so do your homework. It takes time, but personally, I’ve always found it enjoyable. Make a Google document and start a running list of places you find, complete with a link to the property and all applicable costs. If you’re not sure where to start, choose a few neighborhoods or areas you’d like to stay in and go from there. And don’t be afraid to start a conversation with the owners. The answers to your questions will ultimately help you decide upon the vacation home of your dreams.

Have a question about renting that I didn’t cover here? Email me at Rebecca@welltraveledbeauty.com. Stay tuned for a post on some of my top rental agencies and websites.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo: Still Amazing After 105 Years

Grand Hotel Tremezzo: Still Amazing After 105 Years

65 - The Palace by nightLike many travel enthusiasts with a passion for history, I’m enamored by the early days—minus the fact that taking a grand voyage wasn’t nearly as accessible to everyone then as it is today. From the adventure to the exoticness to the glamour, in another life I would have loved to have had a steamer trunk covered with stamps from around the world, in a time when places, destinations, and people were less exploited. But since time travel isn’t an option, I strive to seek out places that celebrate the past, while catering to the present in a classic fashion. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como, Italy, definitely fits the bill.

This stunning lakeside villa dates back to the early 1900’s, a period when Lake Como was considered a must-stop destination for the elite, long before anyone even heard of George Clooney. Travelers came by the droves from nearby countries, including France, England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland—even Tsarist Russia, up until the Empire was abolished after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

mainCol_LaStoria_web2

Photo courtesy of Grand Hotel Tremezzo.

The hotel’s inception, however, would not have been possible without the moxie of Enea Gandola and his wife Maria Orsolini, residents from nearby Bellagio. The well-traveled duo aspired to create a luxurious playground on one of the world’s most awe-inspiring lakes for the well-heeled, curious consumer. Their target location also happened to border one of the most scenic destinations in the area: the gardens of Villa Carlotta. So on July 10, 1910, The Grand Hotel Tremezzo opened its doors, complete with a fête of epic proportions.

The carefree, bon vivant lifestyle took a back seat with the outbreak of World War I—which was, some say, the impetus behind the vacation as we know it now: a need for serious R&R. During the war, the hotel was temporarily used as a military hospital; this period was followed by an interim lull. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the hotel really became a tourist destination. With this new phase came new owners: the Sampietro family, who ushered in a new era of grandeur for the Tremezzo. If you’ve ever seen the 1932 film Grand Hotel, then perhaps you remember Greta Garbo referring to Tremezzo as “that happy, sunny place.” It’s safe to say that the vibe hasn’t changed over the years.

Photo courtesy of Grand Hotel Tremezzo.

Photo courtesy of Grand Hotel Tremezzo.

Despite the hardships endured in World War II, Tremezzo never closed its doors, and to this day, is still a family run, five-star establishment—one of the oldest in the Lake Como area. This past July, the jewel of the lake celebrated its 105th anniversary, and while it’s held on to much of its historic past, it also has all the modern-day amenities that one could ask for, including: five restaurants helmed by the famous Italian Chef Maestro Gualtiero Marchesi; a private beach; three distinct swimming pools; a newly expanded spa offering ESPA treatments; and suites that pay homage to the hotel’s history and distinguished guest list.

While I could go on about all of these perks in greater detail, I’m choosing to do so after my upcoming trip to the Como area this fall, so stay tuned for a trip report—providing I decide to come home, that is.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Via Provinciale Regina 8, 22019 Tremezzina CO, Italy; +39 0344 42491.