The Lee Brothers on: Cookbook Boot Camp

Credit: Alexa Lampasona

Credit: Alexa Lampasona

Ted and Matt Lee-acclaimed cookbook authors, writers and Southern culinary icons-host their Cookbook Boot Camp this June in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Since January 2013, the boot camp draws in chefs from around the country, and only six prospects are selected. Last summer, chef Duane Nutter of One Flew South attended, and this year, chef Linda Harrell of Cibo e Beve was selected.

photo courtesy of The Lee Brothers

Credit: Alexa Lampasona

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Credit: Alexa Lampasona

With the Lee brothers’ background in culinary writing- the pair are widely known for their James Beard awarded cookbook The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook and the newest The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen- attending chefs are given the tools they need to write a compelling cookbook. 

Why did you create the Cookbook Boot Camp?

ML & TL: We found there was a demand for it. There aren't many places to get information about cookbook publishing standards and practices, so chefs would come up to us at food festivals and conferences and ask if they could sit down with us and "pick our brains for a half-hour." The truth is, it takes more than a half-hour to learn what's involved in creating a book and producing the deliverables—from query letter to manuscript to photography to touring plan.

You mention that the title “boot camp” is not necessarily for the long hours of work but for the long hours of sitting.

ML & TL: It's true: chefs are always on the go. And boot camp is six hours of seminars each day for two days (granted there are breaks and lunch!) Most chefs haven't sat still for that long since grade school. The day after last year's boot camp, Duane Nutter checked in to MUSC with exhaustion. I'm convinced it's because for someone who's constantly on the move, to have to sit down in one place for that long messes with one's biology!

Explain about the format of the boot camp.

The boot camp is rigorous. Six prospective authors congregate in a room together for two days in a row, and subject themselves to our writing exercises, lectures and pointed questions. We make progress together, brainstorming the best path forward for each person.

Credit: Alexa Lampasona

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Credit: Alexa Lampasona

Harrell has worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years, and now has the itch to turn her restaurant cooking into recipes.

What inspired you to apply for the Lee brothers Cookbook Boot Camp?  

LH: I have had the desire to write a cookbook for quite a while now. I met Ted & Matt Lee at a chef's dinner at the Guy Gunter Home and it really inspired me to move forward and make my dream a reality.

After completing the boot camp, does this mean you'll begin writing your cookbook?

LH: Yes, I have two ideas that I am currently working on. One is a collection of recipes with stories – think Mastering the Art of Cooking meets Kitchen Confidential. The other is a canine cookbook. I am very passionate about cooking for my dog Sebastian.  He is very finicky and if I can get him to love these recipes, every dog will!

What staple recipes would you include?

LH: I would definitely feature meatballs and rigatoni with gorgonzola-pistachio sauce.  As for the stories, well…let's just say it won't be your typical cookbook.  I plan to tell stories of my experiences in the industry as well as some personal family stories.

Matt and Ted, why was Linda selected for the Boot Camp?

ML & TL: Linda is in the ideal place for a prospective camper. She's been a chef/partner at Cibo e Beve for years, has achieved a loyal Atlanta clientele who are clamoring for her recipes. And now she's motivated to share her passion and her story with a nationwide audience.

Linda, how do you feel to be working with the Lee brothers for two days?

LH: When I met them, I was in awe.  They were so friendly and genuine. I'm privileged to have the opportunity to brainstorm with them for a few days. Everything that they have achieved was done by hard work. Most importantly, they naturally doing what they love to do, and that is a beautiful thing.