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Mentors in the Making: Gabriela D'Arrigo

"People who love to eat are always the best people.” Big and bold in Gabriela D’Arrigo’s email signature, this quote from Julia Child not only made me sit back in my chair and smile, but it also truly encapsulates this rising produce star—she loves experiences and she loves sharing them with people.

While Gabriela shares her love of food—and produce—with many, she actually got her start in our industry by accident, as many produce people do.

“I attended a company event in California right after college, which was really my first introduction to D’Arrigo and produce. My cousin, Margaret D’Arrigo, pulled my sister and me into a meeting, offered us two positions in sales, and gave us two weeks to think about it,” Gabriela laughs, reflecting on such unexpected beginnings. “I was so blown away with everything I was able to absorb in the few days I was at the event that, for me, it was a no-brainer.”

Since then, Gabriela has completely fallen in love with everything about the industry. The added bonus? She gets to work with her family every day and is able to learn more about the hard work and sacrifices they have made to create what D’Arrigo is today. It has been a truly rewarding experience and, as Gabriela shares, she is so unbelievably proud to be part of it.

On her path to D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York, where she currently holds the position of Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Gabriela has had many experiences that have driven her growth. Within those experiences, Gabriela has had many mentors that have helped her steer the course. Only by my pleads and persuasion does she finally narrow it down to a few.

Of the countless individuals that have impacted her life, she tells me that her father, Andy D’Arrigo, Co-Owner of A&E Specialty, who is also on the Board of Directors for D’Arrigo California; Tony D’Amico, President of To-Jo Mushrooms; and Marianne Santo, Senior Category Manager of Produce and Floral for Wakefern, are some of the top individuals who have influenced her career.

“My dad, Andy D’Arrigo has been and will always be my rock. There are times where this job can get the better of you, and he has never allowed me to give up or take the easy way out,” Gabriela tells me. “I have learned—often the hard way—adapted, and created my own skillset because I felt empowered to do so. He always encourages me to create my own path, experience the successes and the struggles, and even fail. His guidance has taught me an invaluable lesson: to be a leader. He has unintentionally become my greatest mentor in my work, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“I have learned—often the hard way—adapted, and created my own skillset because I felt empowered to do so." -Gabriela D'Arrigo

Also in that elite list of mentors is Tony D’Amico, who Gabriela first met when they were exchanging a bottle of wine for a personal pizza on the PMA Fresh Summit Floor.

“I should have known then that he would become family to me…Italians,” Gabriela smiles. “Tony has been such a positive influence and encouraged me to want more, learn more, and do more since day one. I have had the opportunity to serve on committees and boards due to his recommendations, and I have met some of my favorite people in this industry because of him. He has a true passion for his company and this industry; it’s contagious. He is the kind of leader that I can aspire to be.”

As for Marianne Santo, Gabriela was roughly 10 seconds into meeting her when she knew two things: Marianne is a force to be reckoned with, and Gabriela wanted to be just like that.

“She has this ability to command respect without doing or saying anything but, at the same time, Marianne makes you feel comfortable and totally at ease,” she says. “My first time meeting her was at a Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference, and it was like we had known each other forever. There was a real bond formed. She took me under her wing and gave me advice that I will never forget, and I will always be grateful to her.”

 



Andy D'Arrigo, Co-Owner of A&E Specialty and Member of the Board of Directors of D'Arrigo California

"Gabriela has always been an incredibly talented, intelligent, and headstrong individual, who brings passion and excellence to everything that she does.

As Gabriela is my daughter, I have been lucky enough to watch her grow and evolve in both this industry and in her personal life.

Her ability to lead is just as strong as her ability to take the passenger seat and recognize great potential and ideas in other people. Whether that is with coworkers, customers, or family— that is a leadership skill few people have. I have been my own employer for 45 years, and you learn to value certain things about certain people. Gabriela can always maintain perspective and
a grasp on the bigger picture at hand. She asks the right questions and surrounds herself with amazing people who can help her grow, and also people who she can help grow.

While Gabriela is a part of a business that has experienced much diversity in recent years, it is still in many ways, a male dominated industry. There can be a level of shrewdness and a need for resourcefulness and resilience that certain areas of this industry demand of you. Gabriela has learned to navigate that world with grace and with the understanding of how to get things done. I am so proud of how far she has come, and her promising road ahead."

Tony D'Amico, President, To-Jo Mushrooms

"Our company has had the privilege of working with D’Arrigo Brothers for close to a decade now. I first met Gabriela at PMA Fresh Summit awhile back and she really left an impression on me and our team. After that, she came down to tour our facilities, just after she moved from California to New York. I was instantly impressed by her knowledge of the industry and the intellect of her questions. Over the next few years, our team began working even more closely with Gabriella on new product concepts.

Gabriela is a great example of the future leaders we have coming up through this industry. She has a great mind for innovation, and her passion for her work is second to none. I’m personally excited to see how she develops throughout her career. Gabriela is already a great resource to our industry, and her impact will only grow as she herself mentors the future leaders entering the industry today."

 

Marianne Santo, Senior Category Manager of Produce and Floral, Wakefern"In April of this year I had the privilege of attending the PMA Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference in Miami. This was my second time at this event and I looked forward to the workshops, networking opportunities, and reconnecting with friends made at the same conference three years ago. I have known Gabriela D’Arrigo through the Eastern Produce Council and from the long-standing business our companies have done with each other throughout the years. I have always been struck by her professionalism and the grace with which she carries herself, and naturally was very happy that she was at the conference as well. We were able to spend quite a bit of time with each other over the course of those three days, and I left completely awestruck by Gabriela. It is incredibly humbling to find out that someone sees you as a mentor and role model; I have been in this business for over 32 years, and when I look back at the women that served in that capacity for me, I can’t imagine that a woman of Gabriela’s caliber holds me in that light. She already embodies the strength, wisdom, and professional presence that will encourage her peers to succeed and her leadership will be an instrumental piece in furthering the development of women in this business. I believe the best part of a mentorship is cultivating mutual admiration, respect, and the sharing of experience not always defined by age or tenure. Gabriela is a role model for all of us, and I can’t wait to see the incredible impact she will have on our business."