While she loved her work, it was beginning to take a toll

Katie Grieco
Illustration: Kathryn Rathke

When Katie Grieco ’92 left a highly successful restaurant development and management career to teach Vedic meditation, it was a shocking move. But it made sense for Grieco, who has never shied away from big change or taking an unusual path, starting when she was a freshman at Princeton.

At the start, Grieco wasn’t sure what she wanted to study, until she took a Buddhism class with Stephen F. Teiser. She was “blown away by how interesting it was and what a different worldview Buddhists had,” she says. It didn’t turn her into a religious person, but it did lead her to declare religion as her major, as she saw it as a lens through which to view the world.

After graduating, she thought she might want to become a chef and got a job working as an assistant for Susan Holland, the owner of a catering company. Those three years, from 1992 to 1995, were “the best life education, and the best entrée into New York City.” The experience showed her that while she enjoyed event planning, she wanted to work in restaurants, which led her to the master of management in hospitality program at Cornell University.

“There’s more risk in staying put than making a change. Nothing has to be forever.”

She didn’t imagine becoming a personal assistant again, but working in that role for world-renowned chef Tom Colicchio got her foot in the door. She was by his side as his company, Crafted Hospitality, took off, opening restaurants mostly in New York City, but also in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Atlanta. In her last role with the company, in 2017, she was the vice president in charge of operations and new project development, where she led the opening of about one new restaurant per year, 12 in total. “Taking care of people was a big part of our mission,” she says, a goal that included everyone from guests to co-workers to “the people who supplied our arugula or came to fix a broken toilet. Let’s care for people and make them happy.”

With stress mounting, she tried something new. By 2014, she knew she needed a change. While she loved her work, it was beginning to take a toll. The pressure “was starting to have a negative impact on how I felt both physically and emotionally,” she says. Robert Hammond ’92, co-founder of the High Line in New York City, suggested she try Vedic meditation, a practice that involves meditating 20 minutes two times a day — he’d just gotten back from India, where he trained to be a teacher.

Practice turns into profession. Grieco meditated for the first time in August 2014 and hasn’t missed a day since (and now does two sessions a day). It made such a difference in her mental and physical health that she realized “this is where I belong now.” In 2017, she left Crafted Hospitality, took a year off, then trained as a Vedic meditation teacher, and opened Simply Meditate in 2019. She now offers personal meditation instruction and teaches courses all over the country, most often in New York and California.

Lessons learned: Trust your gut, and don’t be scared to pivot in another direction, even if it seems radical to everyone else. “There’s more risk in staying put than making a change,” she says. “Nothing has to be forever.”