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I’m a self-taught cook who, until recently, was the owner and Executive Chef of a modest trattoria called BELLAVITÆ in New York’s Greenwich Village.

After nearly 20 years as a banker, I left life on Wall Street to cook authentic Italian fare and pair it with the best wines I could find in a casual, yet sophisticated environment.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Arizona State University and a Masters of Business Administration from Columbia University.   Two different times during my finance career, I took a year off.  Each of these periods included extensive travel throughout Italy, with me drinking and eating my way through simple trattorias and elegant restaurants.  I’ve had the chance to meet some of the most talented and well-known winemakers and makers of wonderful Italian pantry staples.

I’m not a food snob, nor am I an accomplished Chef.  In fact, while I was an Investment Banker, I could barely pour cereal.  What I do have is a pretty good palate, and a hunger for recreating some of the unforgettable food I experienced while staying in Italy.

I’ve devoured scores of cookbooks and have relied on many Italians who have dined at Bellavitae for inspiration, guidance, and technique.   That’s what this blog is about – to memorialize my journey and to share what I have learned with anyone who is interested.

Growing up in Hastings, Nebraska, I had a vegetable garden, growing anything I could.  My family and I would work in the garden – planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting.   How satisfying it is to eat food that you have grown yourself!  I always found great solace in the garden.

One thing Italians and Nebraskans have in common:  they can talk for an hour!  “Would you look at that beautiful tomato?”  I love that about Italian culture and food.  There is more celebration about what happens in the garden than any fussiness or over manipulation in the kitchen.

Although my background is Italian food and wine, I recently expanded my interest to what I call “Alpine Comfort Food” right here in Taos Ski Valley, NM – a magical spot in my beloved Southwest.  I wear my chef’s jacket in two restaurants here:  The Blonde Bear Tavern and Café Naranja.

Italian food and wine are not pretentious.  Nor should this blog be.  It’s in this vein I begin to share my experience, knowledge, and techniques in a variety of topics related to managing and cooking in a restaurant.


Jon Mudder
Executive Chef
The Blonde Bear Tavern
Café Naranja
Taos Ski Valley, NM
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