Laura Pauli



If you really knew me, YOU’d KNOW

I have a secret stash of chocolate hidden in her kitchen cupboard for emergency cravings!

I’m evolving from

a tech-savvy city dweller to a culinary adventurer, sprinkling my zest for life into every dish I create.

Laura Pauli’s is a story of a life in two parts. It has more hairpin turns than Lombard Street and a Hollywood(esq) plotline full of suspense, surprise and serendipity overlayed with some cosmic doses of divine intervention that have led Laura to follow crumbs of curiosity to New York, France, Ukraine, Baja and beyond.

Laura’s journey so far has followed the archetypal hero’s journey and the best is yet to come as she steps into the story she was born to tell. Excavating it out from where it’s been buried, deep under the layers of life. As Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”

Up until her late 30’s, Laura describes herself as being like, “the pinball in the pinball machine where everyone else was pulling the levers.” She listened to all the voices, apart from that quiet one inside her. The one urging her to uncover her ‘why’ and step into the ‘moreness’ she’d been missing. As a born and bred San Franciscan with a career in finance and tech, Laura had dreamt about exploring a life around her passion for food and cooking … but for close to four decades, that’s what it was… a dream… dampened by societal expectations to fit in and follow suit and the practicalities that accompany big city life.

That is until Laura’s first ‘call to adventure,’

which was delivered in the form of a short message on her answering machine following up an application (which she hadn’t made) at the French Culinary Institute in New York. The source of this application remains a mystery to this day. Like most hero’s, Laura refused this initial call, citing a shopping list of reasons as to why it was not just impractical but also impossible to pack up her sensible life in California and head to NYC on a whim and a prayer. But luckily the universe had other ideas (and was very persistent), and eventually, “the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." (Anais Nin). 

That day arrived for Laura in May 2003 when she ‘answered the call to adventure’ enacting on a yearning that emanated from somewhere deep inside her. A longing for something different. She broke out of her safe cocoon, trading her keyboard for a cutting board (also the title of her first book), and moved to NYC to attend the French Culinary Institute, graduating six months later with her Grand Diplôme in Classic Culinary Arts. For the first time in her life Laura viscerally felt like she was holding the levers of life and in control of the pinball’s direction. In May 2004, after graduating, she moved to France where she lived for six years, cooking her way around the country from the Côte d'Azur to a lobster boat in Brittany to the world-famous Pierre Hermé Patisserie and the three Michelin star Four Seasons George V. 

After 6 years in France, a health scare saw Laura leave and return to the US, where she was lured back to the (financial) security of her career in tech.

Life went on. She completed her sommelier certification part time and taught pasta cooking classes out of her home on the weekends, feeding that little flame and placating the voice inside her that was getting louder,.. urging her to step back into the story she was born to tell, and explore what Sue Monk Kidd calls, ‘the largeness’ in herself. “Bless the largeness in me, even when I fear it.”

Stepping into that largeness takes courage, and faith that the universe has a bigger plan (and a net ready for when you jump). A trust in that inner knowing that she was meant to do and be more. As the proverb goes... “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” A part of Laura was still attached to the familiarity and security that had warmed her world for the past twenty years and a part of her felt liberated and excited by the infinite possibilities of all the ‘unknowns’ that lay ahead. She felt simultaneously grateful for the life she had, but also plagued by discontent and engulfed by a yearning for more. But more of what? 

So, she followed the trail of ‘curiosity crumbs’ which led her to explore a career in wine making. But again, the universe had other plans for her. For three consecutive years, the Napa Valley was devastated by catastrophic fires, to the point when in 2019 she conceded, making a deal… “Alright universe. I’ll stop trying to get into wine if you stop burning down Napa Valley.” But as the saying goes, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” And shortly after, she had two more consecutive ‘calls to adventure.’ The universe was getting serious now (and perhaps a little impatient)!

I followed the trail of ‘curiosity crumbs’ which led me to explore a career in wine making

In September 2020 Laura was ‘laid off’ … or ‘liberated’ as she prefers to call it from her job in tech, around the exact same time as the catastrophic Lightening Glass fires broke out in the Napa Valley. Some years earlier, Laura had come across an organization called World Central Kitchen who use the power of food to nourish the world by providing meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises, and Laura felt an immediate ‘knowing’ that she needed to help. To use her skills and passion to make a difference in the lives of others.

This was the ‘crossing of the threshold’ in Laura’s hero’s journey… also called the point of no return. The place where she redefined her purpose and was forever changed.

Soon after returning from volunteering with World Central Kitchen, Laura sat in her apartment looking out over the bay and the distant fires. The sky was red. The city couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t breathe. Something had to give. At that exact moment an email arrived from MEA promoting their sabbatical sessions. She’d met Chip through mutual friends, so MEA was on her radar … but not top of mind. And yet her inner knowing (that she’d become more attuned to recognizing) was pulling her there. She listened to that little voice that whispered she should go. And so, she did. With a plan to stay for two weeks… that turned into six.

Laura “washed up on the shores of Pescadero” like a fish out of water. For the first time in her life, she felt as though she could just “be” which was both amazing and liberating but also foreign and discombobulating.

She credits her time in Baja with “cracking her open”, but she had to “fall apart completely” … excavate down through all the ‘mud’ to find solid ground before she could start putting herself back together and step into her true shape, hidden by decade’s worth of posturing, pretense and accumulated armor. Rebuild herself into the beautiful shape meant for her, that until now had been hidden from the world. She was finally ‘growing whole’. 

Her new shape is still ever evolving, supporting her to live the truest and most extraordinary story that she was born to tell. One that’s been buried deep under the layers of life. Laura’s passion for food has paved a pathway to her purpose – to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. The outbreak of the Ukrainian war saw Laura reconnect with World Central Kitchen where she volunteered on the Ukrainian Polish border, helping make around 10,000 meals a day for displaced refugees, and also with another non-profit doing humanitarian food runs into Ukraine. 

I'm redefining what ‘comfort’ means to me, empowered by a yearning to feel leaner, lighter and less encumbered by the remnants of a lifetime of accumulation.

I'm redefining what ‘comfort’ means to me, empowered by a yearning to feel leaner, lighter and less encumbered by the remnants of a lifetime of accumulation.

I'm redefining what ‘comfort’ means to me, empowered by a yearning to feel leaner, lighter and less encumbered by the remnants of a lifetime of accumulation.

I'm redefining what ‘comfort’ means to me, empowered by a yearning to feel leaner, lighter and less encumbered by the remnants of a lifetime of accumulation.

To start intentionally editing life down to the guts of what really matters and shedding an old skin that no longer fits. Laura is embarking on a ‘nomadic sabbatical’ and her first stop is back to the Ukranian border where she will both cook and distribute food and also volunteer with another humanitarian organization started by a US doctor who opened a mental health centre to help Ukranians who have born witness to the devastating effects of war. She has no ‘re-entry’ plan and for the first time in her life she feels totally alive. 

Laura has ‘seized the sword’ in her hero’s journey and it feels like the best part of her story is yet to be written. The ”numbness” she’s felt her whole life is lifting like a fog as she uncovers the courage to bust out of her comfortable cocoon… acting on a longing for adventure and purpose...  stretching her new wings to test how they fly. 

“In the end, she became more than what she expected. She became the journey, and like all journeys, she did not end, she just simply changed directions and kept going.” - R.M Drake

- Ang Galloway, midlife writer and MEA alumni