Linda Gassenheimer '64
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What is your edge (strength)?
I feel my strength is the ability to communicate, which is the most important strength to have these days.
What at Hofstra gave you your edge?
I had some wonderful classes at Hofstra, in which I was encouraged to speak in front of a group of my peers. In order to do this, you have to be able to be active, rather than passive, and I think that is important. The ability to stand up and present your ideas is very important.
In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
I can’t describe an institution like Hofstra in one word. It’s “all encompassing!”
What was your major?
What was your favorite class?
My favorite class was a Far Eastern history class. The professor was so brilliant. He had written his doctoral thesis entirely in Chinese about Chinese history – and it was a treat to be taught by someone this knowledgeable. It became so important to my understanding of the economics of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
It was a lovely environment in which to learn … lovely both physically and in the caliber of students and faculty.
What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I was a history major, but I minored in teaching/education. I was a history teacher in New York City for a couple of years, and went from that to teaching about cooking – the communication skills I learned as a teacher helped me.
Who in your field do you most admire?
This may sound trite, but I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Julia Child. I stayed at her home in the South of France. She was one of the brightest people I have ever met, very giving to others, and a lot of fun! Another of my mentors is Jacques Pepin. He helped to steer me in the right direction when I returned to the United States after 20 years in Europe.
What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
History teacher in New York City. The most important thing I learned was that there are many different ways to look at one subject.
What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
I feel that people should follow their passion. Do what you are really interested in doing. Then, seek out the tools you need to be successful in that field.
How do you balance work and life?
With difficulty. This is a problem so many have today. I am lucky in that my whole family loves my current profession – because they love to eat! I brought my passion to my family, and, fortunately, they all help me live it.
Interesting story … I was helping with photography for one of my books, and one particular picture took most of the day, and the photographer was still at my home at 7 p.m. My young son looked at me and said, “Mom, you look terrible! Let me do the dishes.” Much of my balance comes from involving my children in what I do and not ignoring them.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope I am still doing what I currently do. I love it!
What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
When my very first book was published, it was very exciting to walk down the street and see it in bookstore windows. I also very much enjoy when I receive e-mails from my readers and listeners to let me know how much my work has helped them in the kitchen. One person told me I saved her marriage!
Your life immediately after Hofstra included a great deal of training in the culinary arts; how do you feel the B.A. from Hofstra enhanced this training?
It helped greatly because, as a history major, I moved to Europe to be able to see first-hand all the places I had studied. I became involved in the culinary arts through the “back door.” I lived in France, and I was taking French lessons, and I decided the best way to learn French was to cook with a French chef. My knowledge of the history of France helped me understand the background and the personalities of the French – knowing their history helped a lot.
What is the most valuable component of a liberal arts education to a person, like you, whose career spans both the creative and communications arts?
It is so important to have a well-rounded education. I meet people from all walks of life, and I feel comfortable talking with them. When I interview them, I need to know the background of their fields of study or success. My education helped me to be able to assess what to talk to different people about. A liberal arts education builds the skills necessary to do this.
What would you most like to “give back” to Hofstra as a successful, nationally recognized alumna?
I would love to be able to mentor any students who would like to pursue a career in my field.