About Cathy Cleary

I have a big crush on food, always have. Since I was a little kid anything related to food fascinated me. I remember choosing all the picture books that were about finding or eating food. “Blueberries for Sal” and “Bread and Jam for Frances” were favorites. My five year old mouth watered as I read about Frances spreading jam on her bread, imagining how good homemade bread would taste with strawberry jam.

I wrote my first cookbook when I was 9 years old using one of my mom’s old spiral bound notebooks, and a glow in the dark pen. Recipes for “Apple Delight,” “Fast Casserole,” and “Something Grate in a Glass”(spelling never my forte) are pretty funny to look back at now.

My crush on food has led me in lots of different directions. Growing food seemed like a perfect way to get even more of what I wanted, incredible flavor, right outside my backdoor. So, after college, I interned on a farm for a while, and began planting vegetable gardens everywhere I lived, even if it was a tiny bed in the only scrap of soil I could find.

After checking out a couple of other career options, that did not have nearly enough to do with food, I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of opening a bakery/café. I found a good friend who was willing to take the leap with me and become my business partner, and together (along with lots of love and support from our families and friends) we opened West End Bakery and Café in Asheville NC. Much to my surprise and delight we were a great success. A community rose up around the bakery that took on a life of its own, and I got to watch it happen from the inside.

I feel amazingly privileged to get to live out a dream. It was wonderful and exhausting. Getting up at 2:30 in the morning to start making bread dough can wear you down over the years, so after 15 years we sold the business.

In the meantime I had helped to start a non-profit called FEAST teaching cooking and gardening education to kids in schools and afterschool programs. We envision a community where kids eat fruits and vegetables every day regardless of income level. Selling the bakery gave me more time to focus on FEAST empowering kids to choose healthy food. 

AND more time to work on developing and writing recipes. I had gotten lots of practice at the bakery, writing my first (published – we are still counting the one I wrote at age 9) book, “West End Bakery and Café Cookbook” in 2014.  Chock full of soup, salad, and sandwich recipes people often ask why I didn’t include more desserts. Well, it turns out that after all those years of making them for other people I discovered vegetables are my true passion. Salad is my favorite food.

So, that’s why I’m here. I love growing them and I love cooking them, but most of all I love sharing them. I hope to share my passion for fruits and veggies through my cooking and gardening escapades, and I hope you will join me. 

photo credit: Katherine Brooks [www.katherinebrooksphotography.com]

photo credit: Katherine Brooks [www.katherinebrooksphotography.com]

Cathy Cleary lives and works with food and gardens in Asheville NC with her long-time love and husband Reid Chapman. They have a small farm outside Marshall, NC where they have some critters, grow some food, lots of trees, and abundant poison ivy.