By Britney Grover
When she was 5 years old, Rebekah Pizana wanted to be an astronaut. She was a whiz at math and science, and needed a creative outlet — but that wasn’t what deterred her from pursuing a career in space. “The one thing that discouraged me from becoming an astronaut was the fact that you would have to eat food from a tube,” Rebekah said. “I like good food! That was the one thing, and I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t want to be an astronaut anymore. I don’t want to eat food from a tube.’”
Rebekah’s love of good food has shaped the path for her life, including her career, her relationship and even taking up horses and polo. Though she hasn’t been to space, Rebekah has been a pastry chef, bakery owner, international food blogger, marketing and public relations agent, fashion model, polo player and creator of a healthy protein bar made specifically for equestrians — all in a surprisingly natural progression.
After giving up space exploration, Rebekah decided to focus on her down-to-earth interests. “I always wanted to travel, I always wanted to do photography, and I always loved cooking. But I never really brought everything together in my mind,” she said. “I wanted to be on TV, and I wanted to be the next Rachael Ray, so I got into broadcast journalism. That’s why I started that — I wanted to combine the journalism with the food, and I wanted to travel. I was obsessed with Giada De Laurentiis. I always wanted to be Giada; I thought she had the best job ever.”
Rebekah began doing food journalism, publishing articles with various magazines and websites. “I got really into food journalism and I decided to intern in several restaurants. I went to New York for a year, where I interned in three-Michelin-star restaurants. I interned with another Michelin star chef back-of-the-house, and I did front-of-the-house as well.”
With a firm belief in immersing herself completely in whatever she put her mind to, Rebekah even opened up her own baking business, Gourmet Amore. “I ran it for three years successfully; didn’t lose a dime, which was fortunate, and had a lot of fun in the process. That, to me, was my business education — I didn’t go to business school, I just had journalism as a background. I had thought about going to school for business and learning the restaurant industry in that way, but then I decided to do it through experience instead and had a great time in New York.”
A self-proclaimed “Navy brat,” Rebekah was born in Honolulu and lived in Hawaii for 13 years, hopping around the country after that. Since then, she’s put down roots in Middleburg, Virginia — where her passion for food led her even further down her career path. She had been doing her food writing the entire time she was exploring the restaurant industry in New York and with her own business, which led her to exploring wine.
“For me, it’s just a natural transition: You start getting obsessed with your food, and then you get obsessed with the pairings and the full dinner and everything goes together; it’s all hand-in-hand,” Rebekah explained. “So then I started to study wine, and I was interviewing winemakers and doing some wine articles, and that’s how I met Sébastien.”
One of her interviews was with Sébastien Marquet, winemaker at Greenhill Winery & Vineyards, shortly before the winery opened in 2013. With her knowledge of wine, business and journalism, Sébastien hired Rebekah to manage all of Greenhill’s marketing. Between taking over marketing and dating winery owner David Greenhill, Rebekah put her heart and soul into Greenhill, immersing herself in the brand and the community as thoroughly as she had the restaurant business.
“I immersed myself in the community and everything that they do here in the town, and getting to know everyone to be able to brand the winery in the best way,” Rebekah said. “And so to be able to market the venue in the best way, I took up riding. I did a little bit of riding when I was younger, nothing serious. But then I decided to get serious because this is an equestrian town, and the equestrian community is very very strong in the roots of this whole area of Virginia.”
David and Rebekah took up polo together with the goal to have a Greenhill polo team. “We had our first lesson 2 ½ years ago with John Gobin in Wellington, who runs the Great Meadow Polo Club,” Rebekah recounted. “It was really funny because we went out to the polo grounds, and a friend had set it up for us. John has had a lot of people come through with the girlfriend trying to get a lesson for polo, so he didn’t really take us seriously. But a few months later we were back, and now we play with him all the time. He’s our pro and he keeps our horses now.”
Greenhill Winery sponsors polo at Great Meadow, where David and Rebekah play — cheered on by their two Havanese dogs, Arthur and Edgar, who attend polo matches as mascots in their official Greenhill Winery polo jerseys. “Now we have 12 polo ponies and do foxhunting as well. It honestly just started off as really getting fully immersed in the community as the marketing person, more or less as my job, and now it’s become my life and our lives together. It’s a passion; I love all my horses and we have a good time, but meanwhile we can still come out to brand.”
Of their 12 horses, Rebekah rides five regularly: two grays, Silver and Peter Parker; a light bay named Bodie; Pistol, a chestnut; and “one with a white face, I think she is a draft cross or something because she’s a little chubby — we have her in the diet paddock right now, but I call her Nutella because she looks like a little hazelnut,” Rebekah said dotingly. “Mine are all little; they’re barely 15 hands, so they’re a nice little size for me. And quick — I call them my little motorbikes, or my little scooters.”
Fashion & Food
While many might consider horses, polo, wine or travel to be their hobbies, those things are work for Rebekah — and what many might consider work, Rebekah considers her hobbies. She has had agencies and photographers wanting her to model for them since she was in college, but she decided to pursue her true passion for food, doing a few modeling gigs on the side.
“For me as a marketing person, I have to be on the other side of the camera a lot of times. I’m the one who’s coordinating the shoot, working with stylists, working with locations, working with whatever the product is that you’re trying to promote. So I’ve done a lot on that side, and I guess ended up on the other side of the camera,” Rebekah said. “To me it’s just a hobby; I don’t have time to do it full time, but it’s just kind of fun. I do a few things when I have time, and if it happens to work with my schedule. If I travel, I usually work with some photographers so that I can do some cool location shots. So for that, it works out pretty well. It’s just one of those things that you’re on one side of the camera coordinating everything, and then someone says, ‘Oh, we should shoot with you!’ and it all just really worked out.”
Her other “hobby”: creating and marketing an entire brand of protein bars. “I’ve always been a health nut and into nutrition,” Rebekah said. “I really couldn’t find anything that was specifically for riders. A lot of that is joint support and anti-inflammatory ingredients, and something to keep you full for a long time. Riders are high-performance athletes, and you burn a lot of fuel and also need to maintain muscles for riding, and because you’re bending your knees and elbows you get those joint pains. One of the key ingredients I put in my bars is turmeric, and for me that was something I thought was really important. It’s not chocolate coated, so it won’t melt in your pocket; you can put it in your jacket when you’re riding, slip it under the saddle and grab it out when you’re hungry. It also meets a lot of the needs of riders who are on special diets or have certain allergies.”
Rebekah launched Equestribar’s pilot flavor, Chocolate Fudge Sunflower, with the help of friend and designer Christian d’Andrea as well as investor Aleco Bravo-Greenberg. She began by selling through the winery and at polo games, but hopes to expand in the near future. “I’ve always cooked and baked and developed recipes, so for me to come up with a bar was a lot of fun; to come up with things that would go together and ingredients that would make it something that you would crave and something that would also be filling and nutritional, that was a lot of fun for me.”
Rebekah has some high hopes for the future. “My goal would be to make this the best winery in the country. I know that’s a little ambitious, but I think we can be one of the top and make Virginia a little more known in the wine world. I think part of that is the branding we’ve done with the equestrian community, embracing the lifestyle here, and also selling the lifestyle along with the Greenhill brand. Part of that is Equestribar, and trying to support the community on a nutritional level, and offer a new brand, something new that hasn’t been done yet. Right now that would be my goal, and the next goal would be that I would love to play higher goal games and be a really good polo player. It would be my dream if I had some high-goalers ask me to play with them.”
And a cooking show? “And a cooking show, but it would be healthy cooking. And chocolate, chocolate’s fine. And wine. Chocolate and wine and other healthy food.” And never, ever from a tube.