Know Your Local Chef | Leslie Lennox

Square Roots | 07.29.19

Leslie Lennox is the leading Pesto-preneur of New York and Square Roots’ go-to pesto expert. Following a career in fashion, Leslie began making homemade pesto with basil grown in her family’s greenhouse. Once it took off at local farmer’s markets, Hope’s Gardens Pesto started popping up in Whole Foods Markets and on Delta Airline flights across the country. Pesto: the Modern Mother Sauce is Leslie’s first cookbook. It’s an excellent guide for cooking with fresh herbs (or those greens in your fridge that you don’t want to waste) and to inspire brighter, healthier cooking.

Leslie with her husband Dave, sampling fresh pesto made from her new cookbook—Pesto: the Modern Mother Sauce—using Square Roots hyper-local herbs.

Leslie with her husband Dave, sampling fresh pesto made from her new cookbook—Pesto: the Modern Mother Sauce—using Square Roots hyper-local herbs.

Having been both a chef and a farmer, why are local food communities important to you, and what is your advice for people who want to get involved?

The local food community is where you find individuals who have made a commitment to work very hard to bring the freshest, healthiest food our way. I would urge people to shop at farmers markets, volunteer when possible, offer a helping hand, and explore and attend local events.

Quite a track record of highly demanding jobs! What keeps you motivated?

A love of learning and never-ending curiosity, and working hard to produce something tangible.

As a local food advocate in NYC, what have been your biggest wins, failures, or challenges, and what have you learned from them?

My biggest win was writing my cookbook and getting to share it with customers at all my favorite greenmarkets. I learned that if you want something badly enough: focus, learn, and meet as many people involved in this industry as possible. My biggest challenge has been to get Hope’s Gardens Pesto (the pesto company Dave and I founded in Atlanta in 2007) going in NY. There are so many hurdles to creating a food business. My time is limited now as I am promoting my new cookbook, PESTO: The Modern Mother Sauce, but judging from the reaction of people who sample our pesto at book signings, we could have a successful product on our hands! We need to find a great business partner.

In five words or less, what are your hopes for the future of the food system?

Growth, Affordable food, Variety

Favorite restaurant in NYC?

Madame Vo, a Vietnamese restaurant at 212 East 10th Street

Best farmer hangout?
Favorite thing to cook?

Pizza, Vegetables and Eggplant Towers (in my cookbook)

Three people that have influenced your career?
  1. Martha Stewart (our co-pilot—a joke of Dave’s and mine from way back when). She has been successful in so many arenas: catering, magazines, television, books. I admire her level of thoroughness and excellence and her never-ending curiosity.

  2. Kerry Diamond, co-founder of Cherry Bombe, an organization, magazine, cookbook, podcast, and organizer of events celebrating women in the food world. Kerry started in fashion and beauty, like me, and left to follow her new found passion. With all that she does and is involved with, she has remained a nice person who has very strong held beliefs.

  3. Alison Cayne, founder of Haven’s Kitchen. Just like Martha and Kerry, Ali is involved in an expanding company. She started Haven’s Kitchen, after a career in public service, which offered a cafe and cooking school. This has grown to include events, catering, books, a podcast, and a sauce company.

You can follow along with Leslie Lennox on Instagram @hopesgardenspesto and find her new book, PESTO: The Modern Mother Sauce, available to order online.

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