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"From Salads To Desserts And Everything In Between:" Ucross Releases First Cookbook

Chef Cindy Brooks holds a fresh plated meal
Lance Roth for Ucross Foundation
Ucross Chef Cindy Brooks

The Ucross Foundation is developing a cookbook that will give people a taste of what it's like to be a resident artist in the program. Wyoming Public Radio's Ivy Engel sat down with Ucross Chef Cindy Brooks to talk about what went into the book and her start in cooking.

Cindy Brooks: I was a starving art student and started working in kitchens, and it just went from there. I just really took to just food, cooking and all that, like a fish to water, I guess you could say. And yeah, it just fit in with my doing my artwork and the creativity of it. So I just really enjoyed it. And coming from California, there's so much to work with and so much inspiration there.

Ivy Engel: What kind of art were you doing?

Ucross Chef Cindy Brooks smiling in a garden holding a basket of freshly picked veggies
Lance Roth for Ucross Foundation

CB: I was representational art, visual, painting, and drawing.

IE: So what is your history as a chef? I see that you had a restaurant.

CB: I did. I've kind of been all over the map. I worked in restaurants starting out. And then I worked in sort of a little gourmet to-go shop and have done private cheffing and catering at a restaurant. And then I landed here, though, and I've been here for a little over 11 years now.

IE: Oh, wow. And what brought you to Ucross?

CB: Well, they posted the job on Craigslist, if you can believe it. And some of the folks here at the foundation knew people I knew. I was working over in Cody. And it just worked out, and I'm still here.

IE: And so what kinds of recipes can people expect in this book?

CB: They are recipes that I've developed and done over the years while I've been here at Ucross and before that as well. And so it's kind of all over the map from salads to desserts and everything in between. And the influences are from my travel and from California and just what happens to be in my hands and pops in my head. It's recipes that people have asked for, have enjoyed generally during the session. I mean, there's always people who are asking "Is there a cookbook? Are there recipes? Are there this or that?" And so this is sort of a culmination of all those requests.

IE: Have you ever written a cookbook before?

CB: This is my first one.

IE: How exciting. So can you kind of tell me what the process is of making a cookbook?

CB: When COVID started, our residency shut down for a while. So that finally gave us time to actually get in the kitchen and develop the recipes. A lot of recipes are in my head. So you know, that gave me time to go through the process of just getting the recipes where I wanted them to be. And then [I] worked with Cree, who's our wonderful writer who helped sort of flesh everything out that needed to be fleshed out. And so that's as far as I go, the rest of it goes to the folks that are designing it. So Radius [Books] out of Santa Fe is bringing all the recipes and the stories and the photos and the whole project and Ucross together, and they are doing the design of the book.

IE: Are you incorporating a lot of alumni?

Cast iron pan cooking burgers
Lance Roth for Ucross Foundation

CB: Yes, we have ten people that have contributed stories, which are wonderful, really accomplished artists that have written essays for us for the book. And so it all circles back to the experience of being at Ucross as an artist in residence. And so that's what we tried to do with the book, with this photography, with the stories, the essays, the recipes. Give everybody a feeling of what it's like to be here.

IE: And can you tell me a little bit about your co-author,

CB: Cree LeFavour is a cookbook author as well as a novelist. And she lives back East and she's also an alumni so she's had the experience as well of being here at Ucross. We're doing a Kickstarter campaign, which ends on September 14. When you go to the Kickstarter campaign page, which you can access through Ucross.org, it has a video. Cree opens the video and it kind of gives you an idea of place, and the experience, and the food. So it's a really good way to get a little inside peek at what Ucross is like.

IE: And how will people be able to get the book once it's published?

CB: Well, with the Kickstarter campaign, they can reserve a book now. And if you go on that link, through ucross.org, you can find out how to reserve your book Or if you don't do that, then it's going to be available in early December, and that will be through the usual, Amazon and all of that.

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