Leeann’s first book: “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook” is available now.
“New York City Homegrown Cookbook” to follow.
Leeann has worked in restaurants and food catering and cooks with passion, using food ingredients from local NYC Greenmarkets and her herb and farm-ette in the Garden State.
She writes a Food & Drink column for Examiner.com, curating the food spectrum that dazzles and elevates the radical New York food world.
She writes two blogs.
“Master Chefs and their Gardens” chronicles the making of the book, “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook,” as well as the nexus of garden art and culinary art, food events, lectures, Greenmarkets, growers, cookbook reviews, and food stories.
“Garden Glamour” is the little black dress for gardeners, highlighting best practices, lectures, garden book reviews, romantic and glamorous gardens and insouciant anecdotes about the humbling world of gardening.
Leeann contributed the chapter Public Relations and Marketing Communications to the successful “Public Garden Management: A Complete Guide to the Planning and Administration of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta.”
Garden Specialist and principal of Duchess Designs, LLC, Leeann designs artful, sustainable gardens that tell stories & are endlessly beguiling–in every season. Leeann received a Certificate in Landscape Design from The New York Botanical Garden. She worked at NYBG and was Director of Communications, Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Leeann is an award-winning landscape designer, earning top honors in the first Broadway in Bloom contest. Two Duchess Designs gardens are featured in “Cottages and Mansions of the Jersey Shore.” Several garden designs are highlighted in NJ Design magazine. Leeann has served as judge for the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest and the New Jersey Flower and Garden Show. Leeann is a member of MetroHort Group, The Garden Writer’s Association, The Horticultural Society of NY, and The Garden Conservancy. Leeann designed The Garden Pendant Collection. She’s written garden book reviews for The Two River Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Leeann nurtures a small rooftop garden at her home in Gotham, and herb, edible and display gardens at her Garden State home.
What inspires you to write?
When I first started work on this book concept in 2002 I had the idea that gardens are peerless; that because gardens are so utterly beautiful – so inspiring — it could be said that mother nature is responsible for no less than giving birth to the magic of artistic endeavor.
It was more than the notion that gardens are just pretty to look at or sit in, but indeed, I believe their very essence captivates us and elevates us to create.
I knew that gardens had been igniting passions and fueling artists from painters to sculptures to writers and musicians throughout the ages.
And none more so than the culinary artist, because they utilize the garden’s bounty in making their transporting, artisanal signature recipes.
I wanted to further explore the nexus where garden art meets and fuels other art, beginning with the culinary artist because they use the bounty of the garden directly in their creations.
I wanted to discover how locavore chefs discover inspiration from their growers, farmers, fisherman, dairymen, vintners and artisanal food producers to create seasonal, sustainable, and delicious menus.
Long Island and particularly the East End have a long and proud agricultural history – and today it is still the most productive farming and food production region in New York. The book demonstrates the special relationship and respect between the chef and their inspired grower and their relationship to the land and the waters. I wanted to tell those challenging and triumphant stories.
I live in New York and the Garden State, and have spent so much time on the East End in producing the book: bicycling to interviews across the Two Forks, photo shoots, tastings – it is safe to say it is my home too. Everyone welcomed me – opening up their gardens, their duck farm, oyster beds, wineries, and kitchens. It’s an intimate experience and I am proud and honored to share the food history and stories that are Long Island. As I note in the book, the original Paumanok name for Long Island is “Land of Tribute,” and the Homegrown book is my tribute to Long Island.
Tell us about your writing process
I begin my writing by reading. I read extensively in popular, mainstream media. I am enchanted by the writer’s use of words and language too – not just the content. Sometime I re-read something just for the sheer joy of it.
I learn from good writers how to make the story connect and if it’s a subject that has been covered a lot, I note how they made it new and refreshing.
I do a lot of online research. I want to learn what has been written already about what I am writing about.
If it’s a profile I’m writing, the research further helps me to produce the questions for the interview.
I record the interviews I conduct. The conversation provides nuance and richness and reminds me of things I may not have captured. I also have awful handwriting so the actual conversation preserves the integrity of the story when my penmanship quality forsakes me!
I then lay out the story in rough form – just to get it in a working form. Like the clay for a sculpturer, you might say. Next I put the story in order or the rough flow so it makes sense. Often in writing, the words or ideas come but not in way that is easy to understand or pleasing. Particularly when producing a feature profile, the interviewee does not tell their story in a chronological way – rather jumping from one memory to the next. And if my questions are probing enough, I can often elicit a narrative that they might not have even remembered for a long time. Here is where I can secure a sparkler that will make the story shine.
Following the layout I edit the piece. I have a tendency to make a point more than once and have to pare back the redundancies. I love words so that I tend to run on a bit…. The reader gets it. Less is best. I polish the piece and hone the writing. I agonize at this stage too.
I spell check. And if not on deadline, I walk away from the story for a bit. I like to come back to it and read the piece as my reader would – with fresh, unbruised eyes.
Then I hit Send.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I wanted to celebrate local and regional food. In the not too distant past, people would travel to different places or far-away regions to not only enjoy the beauty of the landscape, but also to taste and experience the local cuisine. Today, more people eat the same shopping mall-one-size-fits-all-menu. That’s bland and uninteresting. I want to recapture a food tourism. Local terroir and salinity of waters and the seasons, for example, make fruits and vegetables and dairy taste different and unique. Food tourism will again suggest people will visit Long Island to dine and drink. Long Island is blessed with a climate and landscape and waterways that afford it fresh, delicious food sources in just about every season.
I am overjoyed when fans tell me the book is so special for a few reasons: they Love the food stories – learning about what drives the chefs and growers – and I hope that inspires the readers in whatever life endeavor they have. Further, the recipes are simple to make and simply delicious – recipes that you can return to over and over. As a guideline, I asked each chef to offer recipes within these guidelines: a family heritage recipe, a signature recipe, a seasonal recipe, and a brand new recipe. The collection of recipes in the book is bursting with culinary creativity.
What distinguishes the book is that it is both Food STORIES and recipes.
Readers can learn about the locavore chefs and what makes them go the extra mile to the Farmer’s Markets or to the honey growers or the duck farmers or the dairies – when it would be sooo much easier to just pick up the phone and call a purveyor.
See, it wasn’t good enough for “my” chefs to be good cooks – that had to be a gimme – no, my chefs had to be a cut above – a master chef – a culinary artist who reveres their craft in such a way that no less than the very best homegrown ingredients compel them to create simple, delicious recipes.
I hope the reader can follow the food adventure and see the respect for the chefs, their growers, and the food and their relationship to the land and waters of Long Island
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
We are at a very exciting crossroads for book publishing. I think the future will show different mediums being incorporated into our concept of printed books, including audio and video. Cookbooks for example, could display the chef preparing the menu items in the kitchen. And children’s books might visually depict the characters flight across the cornfield.
Authors will engage more directly with their readers and fans via their social networks. They will host book parties via Skype-like visuals, helping to lead the discussions. Authors will build their own brands.
Libraries will become more engaged in direct, personal networking with their members. Librarians will be more like “Book Buddies” or guides – helping their clients find books, secure sneak previews, link them to the authors and other readers. They will have become style arbiters much like a Film or TV critic.
Content will remain king. There will be more devices to read the content on – but we will consume more of. Digital devices will become even more ubiquitous.
But we will always have paper books. For many reasons. But the sensuality of reading a hardcover, paper book cannot be underscored enough. Think about how we refer to reading a good book: Open it up, curl up with it. Turn the pages, touch the spine. Smell the leather. We take it to bed. Very sexy stuff.
Plus books are transporting. And it is even more than the content. It’s about the memory. Who doesn’t remember sitting on the beach or laying in front of the fire reading Heartburn or The Hobbitt. Reading a book is luxury entertainment that creates a memory of emotions and a sense of place.
What genres do you write:: Food Stories & Cookbooks, Children’s Books
What formats are your books in: Both eBook and print