Art and Food Meet in Ucross Cookbook

The cover of the upcoming Ucross Cookbook

Ucross Foundation, the artist residency program, announces the forthcoming publication of “The Ucross Cookbook: Cooking for Artists on a Wyoming Ranch.”

The cookbook will feature the most popular recipes of Ucross Chef Cindy Brooks, who has served Ucross artists for over 12 years. Brooks, a California native, owned her own restaurant in Bozeman, Montana, before she brought her culinary prowess to Ucross in 2009.

Brooks said she decided to start on the project due to many residents at the Foundation requesting recipes and wondering if there was a cookbook. “During Covid-19, in 2020, the residency program shut down for a time, and I had the time to compile the cookbook. It also gave me time to develop recipes, test and retest them before writing them down for the book.”

Cindy in her kitchen. Photo courtesy of Ucross Foundation and taken by Lance Roth.

Brooks’s coauthor of the cookbook is Ucross alumna Cree LeFavour. LeFavour, who lives in New Orleans, is a novelist, has written a memoir and has authored several other cookbooks, including the James Beard Award finalist “Fish.”

Brooks said she is a self-taught chef, and loves to travel and get ideas for her recipes when she travels. “I love to experience different cultures, and I come back and expand on what I’ve learned. The travel recharges me for the next session.” The Foundation only has sessions in the spring and the fall, which gives her time to travel. She also gets ideas from the residents, who come from all over the U.S. and the world. “I love to share stories with the artists at the Foundation.”

She said she got her start working in restaurants in California, and when she moved to Wyoming she worked as a private chef in Cody. “Then I saw a job opening here at Ucross, and came to work here it 2009. It’s like cooking for a family. I usually cook for 10 to 12 people, residents and staff.”

Brooks said she likes to use the Mediterranean type diet as a base for many of her menus, using fresh produce, some of which is grown nearby, “We have a garden here at the Foundation. I take advantage of having fresh vegetables right outside my door.”

Cindy enjoys being able to pick fresh produce. Lance Roth photo

She added “The cookbook will be a culmination of everything that has been going on in the kitchen for the 12 years I’ve worked here. It gives one the experience of Ucross, and it is as much about being here at Ucross as it is about recipes.”

“Cindy’s cooking is an art form,” Ucross President and Executive Director Sharon Dynak said. “Our artists have been begging Cindy to share her ‘secret recipes’ for years. And — because we are all about art in all forms — this is going to be much more than a cookbook. It will be a true celebration of Cindy’s creative thinking, a tribute to our resident artists and a look at our extraordinary High Plains setting.”

As Joy Harjo — U.S. Poet Laureate and a Ucross alumna — wrote, “The imagination finds refreshment in lands rich with plants and creatures of all kinds. Ucross is rich in spirit food.” 

Getting food ready for residents. Lance Roth Photo

In addition to exploring the recipes, readers will enjoy a taste of the cultural experience of ten artists sitting around the communal Ucross dinner table at the end of a long day in the studio. Ten acclaimed former Ucross artists-in-residence have written brief essays for the cookbook, including author Sigrid Nunez; visual artist Munson Hunt; choreographer Ann Carlson; playwright and screenwriter Doug Wright; writer and former chef Brendan Basham; multi-disciplinary writer, composer and performer Karma Mayet; operatic baritone Nathan Gunn; novelist and investigative journalist Suki Kim; composer and playwright Michael R. Jackson; and novelist and nonfiction writer Judith Freeman.

“The Ucross Cookbook” is slated for publication in December 2021, but it is dependent on public participation in The Ucross Cookbook campaign on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform for creative projects. The fundraiser goal is $40,000, which will cover the costs of photography, printing and design by Radius Books, among other expenses. Contributors will receive thank-you gifts ranging from a signed copy of the cookbook to a dinner for six prepared by Brooks. Following Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing model, if the full amount is not raised by September 14, then Ucross will receive none of the donations.

“We are glad to welcome the public into this creative project,” Dynak said. “We know that this cookbook will be a beautiful bookshelf addition, for both Ucross alumni and those just getting to know the organization.”

More information on “The Ucross Cookbook” and Kickstarter campaign is available at ucross.org.



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