Elisa was born in Ragusa, Sicily and was educated as forage chemist and milk and cheese quality technician. In her region, she worked with dairy producers to improve milk and cheese quality and also spent several years studying the production, conservation and utilization of forages with particular focus on the quality of the native pasture and how to best integrate its nutritional value in the diets for lactating cattle.
In 1996, Elisa contributed to the development of the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) trademark of the European regulatory Union for the “Ragusano” cheese. This was a six year project describing the effect of pastures, forages, breed, milk quality, and traditional cheese making approaches as well as the aging techniques which all contribute to the distinctive organoleptic characteristics of the “Ragusano” cheese.
She moved to the USA in 1996 for more laboratory training at Cornell University and still focused on feed chemistry and analysis. She married Mike Van Amburgh, in 2001, and because of his background in cattle nutrition, she updated her expertise and began to engage in food production techniques and U.S. regulations along with conducting market research for high quality cheese production in the U.S. market. In 2012, she completed her BS at Cornell University in Food Operations and Management.