Photography alum uses her love for pesto to create culturally and visually rich website
Jessica Paholsky, a 2014 graduate of the School of Visual Arts’ Photography program, has used creating pesto as a way to connect people from around the world and spread cultural awareness.
Once Upon a Pesto is a brand and website created by Paholsky that highlights pesto as a process and not just the combination of specific ingredients. The website offers recipes and stories that guide visitors on “an exciting journey around the world.”
When most people hear the word “pesto,” Paholsky said they think of the typical green sauce made from basil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan, but the word actually comes from an Italian verb that means “to crush or to grind.”
“If pesto is a process, that means it can be made with so many different things and be about so many different places, people and ingredients,” Paholsky said.
The seed for the website was planted in 2016, while Paholsky was working at publishing company Rodale Inc. She recognized the opportunity to publish a cookbook, but realized she first needed to look back and find somewhere to start.
Taking into consideration her love for cooking, photography and storytelling, she built Once Upon a Pesto on the idea of using food to tell stories from around the world and to connect people.
Paholsky has always been creative, but she said her time at Penn State, including studying abroad in Mexico, Italy and Cuba, helped bring her ideas to life.
“Every facet of the person I am today is attributable to my experience at Penn State,” Paholsky said. “If it wasn’t for the faculty and staff, the internship opportunities, the coursework and the projects, I wouldn’t be on the career path that I’m on.”
The Once Upon a Pesto website features 40 different pesto recipes from 40 different countries. She creates all the pesto recipes based on the significance of an ingredient to a particular country and culture, then proceeds to incorporate each pesto into dishes that are traditional to that culture.
“Maybe some people don’t even go to my website for the sake of making something, but it’s just to learn about another culture or country,” Paholsky said.
Paholsky creates the recipes, styles the food, photographs, and writes and edits content for both social media and her website. She does everything from content creation to content management for her brand, all while working a full-time job as video marketing coordinator at the Milton Hershey School.
“I’ve always been part of a larger communications team where the video content I’m creating is for the web, social media and public relations initiatives,” Paholsky said. “So, my professional experiences continue to expose me to these other roles and broaden my wholistic communications knowledge. I’m then able to apply that to my brand and run it all myself.”
Even if people don’t travel, Paholsky hopes that she can make them feel like they are taking a trip around the world just by experiencing her content. She wants to use her experiences to inspire others and make them eager to learn about other cultures.
With the goal of one day publishing a cookbook, Paholsky said for now she is going to continue to build her brand. She already has more than 11,000 followers on Instagram, and wants to keep growing her audience and generating content so that when the goal is achieved, it’s that much more of a reward.
“It’s a long journey,” Paholsky said. “I just want to continue to be consistent and generate content and engage an audience.”