“Cathy’s had a role in creating my cooking style.”
- Henry Read


“We were 29 and sitting in my living room and we were like, hey, we need to buy a building,” Cleary said laughing. “And it actually happened — we ended up coming up with the money somehow.”


"She is a doer, a team player and a leader. She is my favorite person to organize an event with partly because she always does wheat she says she will do (plus more) and she can handle difficult people! Cathy is simply a gem."
- Jennifer Lapidas



Focus on FEAST. Helen Chickering, from Blue Ridge Public Radio, talks about Hall Fletcher's School Garden.
Read and Listen!

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by NPR's Frank Stasio for
The State of Things. We discussed The Carolina Table (to which, I'm a contributor). Listen!

photo credit: Paul Jackson [www.pauljacksonphoto.com]

photo credit: Paul Jackson [www.pauljacksonphoto.com]

From Mountain Xpress - December 2, 2014

Dorothy Foltz-Gray 

Cathy Cleary has always had a knack for bringing people together.  In 2001, at a time when Haywood Road in West Asheville housed mostly appliance stores, she opened West End Bakery, which she co-owns with Krista Stearns and Lewis Lankford.

“Haywood was not a place where people hung out,” says Cleary. “My partners and I really wanted a community gathering space, and West End Bakery was immediately that. People were coming in to meet or make friends.  It was so cool to watch.”

Now, Cleary is celebrating and reinforcing the community she’s created with the publication of The West End Bakery Cookbook. In keeping with her inclusiveness, she enlisted her friends, neighbors and customers to taste and tweak the recipes.

“I love to collaborate, and I love other people’s feedback,” says Cleary.  “Part of the reason the cookbook was difficult was that it felt like I was doing it by myself.  So, I opened up the testing to friends.” 

The testers dived in. Their feedback helped Cleary make the recipes friendly for home kitchens. “It also made the recipes clearer and more well-rounded,” Cleary says.  “One person said that she added crystalized ginger to my granola after she pulled it out of the oven. That was a great suggestion. And some people would comment, ‘This recipe takes forever. Can you streamline it?’”

The testers also affirmed the versatility of many of the recipes. Henry Read, for instance, adapted the recipe for black-eyed peas and collards, replacing collards with Swiss chard, and oregano with thyme.  “It was nice to find out that I could make substitutions and still have it come out,” says Read, who grew up eating Cleary’s food. His dad and Cleary were classmates at UNC Greensboro, and remained good friends. “Cathy’s had a role in creating my cooking style,” says Read.  “I like that she takes traditional Southern cooking seriously.”

Kimberly Masters, another college classmate of Cleary’s, also loves the freedom in the recipes: “Cathy wants to use what’s in season and local. So, she gives you the confidence to play with the recipe a little bit, especially with the soups.”

Masters has been testing Cleary’s recipes for at least two years: “She wanted help in reducing the restaurant recipes to manageable sizes for a home kitchen. I tested the lentil dahl, the pumpkin chili and muffin recipes like the pumpkin chocolate chip.  I’ve made the lentil dahl about 20 times because I love it so much.” 

An ad lib quality has always been a part of Cleary’s cooking style, except for baked goods that need more precision. “I like to be inspired by my ingredients,” she says.  “If I’m trying to come up with a new salad, I open my fridge and take an inventory of what needs to be used and what can be combined. It’s very creative for me.”

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from Asheville Citizen-Times article - December 2, 2014

Mackensy Lunsford, mlunsford@citizen-times.com

Food historians often say that the first cookies were really just tiny test cakes.

For Cathy Cleary, cookies were a test run for a business that would eventually become a cornerstone of West Asheville’s development — and eventually provide inspiration for the forthcoming West End Bakery cookbook.

Cleary, with business partner Krista Stearns, used to sell cookies and other baked goods wholesale to local restaurants, including Earth Fare, Malaprop’s and the long-gone Max and Rosie’s.

A year later, in 2001, Cleary and Stearns became big-time property owners on Haywood Road, a piece of Asheville history Cleary covers in her new cookbook.

At the time, she said, Haywood was mainly boarded up. The stores that still functioned were either used appliance places or junk stores masquerading as antique shops. In a part of town where most of the restaurants closed at 7 p.m., Cleary and Stearns offered the neighborhood a gathering spot.

“It was a little bit desolate,” she said of the now-bustling Haywood Road corridor. “There were some restaurants, but they were not necessarily gathering places.”

Without advertising, the bakery attracted lines of people when it opened its doors at 7:30 a.m. on the first day of business.

“People were just so excited they had a place where they could come and sit and have a cup of coffee and hang out with friends and strangers, I think,” Cleary said.

Building a business from scratch

They also offered a place for other entrepreneurs to stake their own claim on an area that would soon blossom with independent restaurants, bars and other businesses.

“We created a business that we affectionately called WAD,” said Cleary, referring to the West Asheville Development group, which purchased and renovated the two-story, 26,000-square-foot brick Bledsoe building, now the home of the West Village Market and other Westville Pub.

What started as an only half-serious pipe dream resulted in a move that would help shape West Asheville. WAD paid $650,000 for the Bledsoe Building, some land around it and the space where West End Bakery sits, according to a 2001 Citizen-Times report. Built in 1928, the building was reportedly in danger of being torn down.

“We were 29 and sitting in my living room and we were like, hey, we need to buy a building,” Cleary said laughing. “And it actually happened — we ended up coming up with the money somehow.”

Cleary helped cobble together the money for the building with the help of several investors. She applies the same many-hands-make-light-work philosophy to working in the kitchen, too. If trying to making loads of cookies for the holidays, Cleary recommends an assembly-line approach. “Get everything lined up and ready to go and do everything in steps and methodically as possible.”

The cookie recipes on this page come from Cleary’s West End Bakery Cookbook, due out this month (see box on Page D1). They’re the same cookies that she sold to businesses while just getting started, and an important part of the the bakery’s history.


"Part of what I live for is to get people cooking and eating vegetables.”
- me


“I like that she takes traditional Southern cooking seriously.”


“If I’m trying to come up with a new salad, I open my fridge and take an inventory of what needs to be used and what can be combined.”
- me