About Us

Cook and Eat at Home is the creation of Vito Degrigoli and Jan Stapel.  So about us, we are longtime partners in life, enjoy creating great food and eating it too!  We also share a love of travel and learning about other cultures and their cuisines, then returning home and recreating memorable meals from our travels at home.  Some more about us… did we mention entertaining?  That’s a big part of our lives too, from dinner with a few friends, to holiday meals and parties to summertime entertaining poolside at our home in Palm Springs, California.  So how did we get to Cook and Eat at Home?  Read on and discover more about us and Cook and Eat At Home…

Vito’s Story

Vito Degrigoli About Us and Cook and Eat at HomeI grew up in Union City, NJ, the youngest of three siblings in an Italian-American family with grandparents, lots of aunts, uncles and lots of cousins (the larger, post-WWII group and a smaller late Baby Boom group, which included me), not to mention great aunts, great uncles, many more-distantly related relatives and other colorful characters. 

My maternal grandparents house was around the corner from our house and many other relatives lived in fairly close proximity. Much of our extended family’s social life revolved around my grandparents’ home.  Their house had two kitchens: one on the first floor, a half-story above sidewalk level, was the “for show” kitchen, used only to make espresso, tea or a light lunch, and the second, downstairs in the basement, was the “real” kitchen with its large soapstone farm sink and counters, restaurant-size stove and oven, and pantry with lots of storage space at the rear of the basement and my grandfather’s wine press and grappa still located at the front of the basement. 

My grandparents’ house had a large back yard which was neatly divided into two sections by a concrete path lined with slate curbstones.  One side was a well-kept lawn with a large peach tree at the far end, which beckoned you to the lawn chairs clustered beneath it; the other side was a garden devoted to growing vegetables and herbs and a centrally-placed fig tree.  The garden and fruit trees were my Grandfather Giovanni’s pride and joy, a source of bounty brought about by labor and nourished with horse manure and wine dregs.  I was fascinated with it, often helping my grandfather dig out ripe carrots, learning from him when the tomatoes and figs were ripe enough to pick and magic of the various herbs.

My Grandmother Concetta’s realm was the “real” kitchen, from which all wonderful food flowed.  How my grandmother created all this wonderful food was a source of fascination for me and my cousins, when we were very young.  When we offered to help her, my grandmother had a clever way of sorting out which cousins had culinary inclinations and which were culinarily challenged.  She would set out some small, simple chores for you to do for her.  If you completed it to her satisfaction, you passed and moved on to more complicated chores; failure meant being told to “go play upstairs or outside”.  Eventually, a few of us made it to the holy grail, the stove and oven, and were tasked with being “sous chefs” to my grandmother; and that’s how I began my culinary “education”.  Mind you, my aunts, uncles and parents all cooked, or as my Aunt Tess put it “Everybody cooks in this family, the women, the men and the kids too! What a family!”

While my parents both worked full time, they were also very good cooks and bakers.  Mom ensured that there was always a freshly-made dinner on week nights; on the weekends, Mom and Dad often cooked together or my Dad would give Mom a break and prepare dinner, often his “gourmet” specialties. On one or two Fridays per month, my parents took my siblings and I out to dinner at local restaurants; while these weren’t fancy venues, they were noted for the authentic fare.  These restaurant outings also served to teach us how to “dine out”.  My parents had one steadfast rule for the kids: “Order whatever you like from the menu, but you must eat what you’ve ordered”.  My parents would gently discourage our choices (talking to you octopus) if they knew that we’d likely not want to eat it once it was served to us.

Thanksgiving through Christmas was a period of serious holiday baking by my parents, often producing dozens of different types of cookies and other treats.  Outside of the home, most of my friends’ families had fled Cuba in the late 1950s and early 1960s; after-school visits to their homes opened up a whole world of Cuban cooking and cuisine.  When I went away to college, I was shocked to find out that most of my college friends did not have multi-course meals at home.  Imagine that!  So I guess, I was fated to cook!

Jan’s Story

Jan Stapel About Us and Cook and Eat at HomeI was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and lived the first year of my life on a houseboat in the canals of Amsterdam. The first word I spoke was Dutch for airplane, wile pointing at a one flying over in the sky. The Netherlands in the early sixties was a culinary desert. Luckily my parents took my siblings and I, at early ages, on vacation to southern Europe, mostly in northern Italy and France; thus started my curiosity for food.

I was the first one in my family to eat an artichoke; mostly with the help of the waiter who quickly figured out this was a new dining adventure for me. I was hooked right away and made my parents, brother and sister fans as well. The world of food really opened up when I went to college in the United States. I was introduced to broccoli (it would take another 15 years for broccoli to make it to the Netherlands) and a huge range of other “new” foods. I quickly developed an appreciation of Italian food.

Post-college, Vito entered my life. In addition to being the best husband (we had to wait for 27 years to make it official), he finds his way to my heart through my stomach with his many culinary creations on a daily basis. I had the privilege to be introduced to his large and welcoming family early on after we’d started dating. I passed the “fire test” during my first Easter dinner with my future in-laws. I am a great fan of cold cuts, cheeses, etc. and clearly overdid it during the antipasto course, despite repeated whispered warnings from Vito. After all, in my family, an entire dining table covered with platters, dishes and bowls of food would be the whole meal, not a first course with many more to come. Antipasto was followed by lasagna, two kinds of course, one with and one without ricotta cheese. Unable to choose between the two, Vito’s Mom gave me a full serving of each! Thankfully, there was a break before we went on the main course.

I did manage to finish everything I was served and was an instant hit with Vito’s Mom. She was thrilled because I was a good eater! Several years later, after Vito’s parents had retired to Naples, Florida, my sister and a friend were privileged to enjoy a Sunday feast of similar magnitude when they visited and stayed with Vito’s parents for a few days.

Our Story

Jan and Vito About Us and Cook and Eat at HomeWe both love to travel and bring our culinary experiences from these trips into our kitchen. We’ve had the good fortune to live on both the East and West Coasts of the US and now live in Palm Springs, California.  We have traveled throughout the U.S. and extensively in Europe, South Africa, Asia and Oceania, eagerly exploring the cultures, history and cuisines of these places; those are just some things about us.

In our main business, we develop online databases and write software applications, but enough about us. After many years and much discussion, we have decide to make an online database of the vast treasure trove of Vito’s culinary creations. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we do. Please be aware that Cook and Eat at Home is a work in progress, with new recipes being created several times a week. Now that you know about us, come back and visit often and enjoy!

One response to “About Us”

  1. Cousin Donna says:

    Ok Cuz I am going to start making your recipes!