When Life Hands You Lemons, Throw Tomatoes

PACKED WITH MORE THAN 100 RECIPES, this culinary compendium by University Professor and Dean Emerita of the Gabelli School, Donna Rapaccioli, explores the connections between cooking and leadership.
Donna Rapaccioli dressed in a kitchen with a denim apron with a picture of her book 'When Life Hands You Lemons, Throw Tomatoes'
For Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., dean emerita of the Gabelli School of Business, a role in which she served for more than 15 years, the parallels between her passion for accounting and cooking were clear early on in her life and in the leadership roles she has held.

“The overlap between the joy of accounting and the joy of cooking is now a constant in my life,” she commented. “Both are part art, part science. Each sometimes requires rule-based action with absolute precision—such as calculating earnings per share or baking a delicate cake—and other times more interpretive judgment and estimation, such as determining the useful life of an asset or deciding between baking versus frying meatballs (frying is my preferred method).”

In her newly published book, When Life Hands You Lemons, Throw Tomatoes: Lessons in Life and Leadership, Rapaccioli dives deep into the interconnectedness between her successful career in academia, during which she has mentored hundreds of students and served at the helm of the Gabelli School of Business, and her passion for cooking and feeding her family, friends, and colleagues.

“Leadership,” she noted, “is about finding connections, and people are a key ingredient. Expressing empathy, working as a team, sharing your knowledge, learning from past experiences, and being open to new ones can bring people together in the kitchen and in the boardroom.” She has employed this ideology as a way to build her own professional relationships and personal friendships over the years and encourages others to look for opportunities to employ these tactics.

In the book, Rapaccioli reminisces about growing up in the Bronx and the influence of her beloved grandmother, who encouraged her deep appreciation of food even as a child. It wasn’t until later in life after marrying her husband of 39 years, however, that she began her own culinary journey, experiencing the satisfaction of feeding her own family, which motivated her to study the art and science of cooking. When she was a Ph.D. student studying accounting, she discovered a seminal research paper written by George A. Akerlof titled, “The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism.” It inspired her interest in accounting and her desire to pursue innovations in business education, but it also fueled her curiosity regarding the deep and intriguing connections between business and food. It is this realization that has ultimately inspired her own recipe for personal and professional success.

—Michelle Miller