Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 7 a.m.
Chef and soon-to-be author Lenny Russo
Courtesy of Lenny Russo
It's been a big year for Lenny Russo. From traveling Slovenia and filming a television show to surviving what could have been a deadly car crash to recommitting himself to health, the award-winning chef has hardly found a moment to stop moving. Now, he has finally announced what many fans have long been waiting for: He's writing a cookbook.
Recently, the James Beard Award-nominated chef traveled Slovenia eating copious amounts of sausages while filming a television show on behalf of the American Chefs Corps. While there, he survived a Yugo tumble down a mountain side
during filming. After viewing the footage and thanking the gods of fumet and pork fat that he survived, he observed, "My god, I look fat." He's since dropped enough weight that his once snug chef coat drapes over him.
His new found focus on his health is, in many ways, a corollary to the local eating that Russo has championed throughout his celebrated career. Before farm to table was a thing, he was preserving and transforming Midwestern bounty into elegant dishes in his Heartland restaurant (both at the old Highland location and its current Lowertown home). While others were mastering the grandmotherly way of cooking and tentatively storing cucumber pickles, he was selling their concord grape conserve with charcuterie in the restaurant or by the jar in the farm market.
Now, he'll be reaching back into his extensive recipe archives and transforming his elegant dishes into items we can all prepare at home.
The book, Heartland: Farm Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest, will be published by Burgess Lea Press and the first draft is due this January. We spoke with the chef about why he felt the time was right to move forward with his book and with this publisher.
"It was their reputation, their principles, and their staff, plus the fact that I have a great deal of creative control over the final product," said Russo. "I also get to choose my photographer. And they donate their profits after cost to the nonprofit of my choice. The fact that they are distributed by Simon & Schuster didn't hurt at all."
So since his first draft is due in January, we could all be cooking from his pages by the next holiday season.
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