Cookbook authors Matt and Ted Lee were fun speakers at the Baltimore Book Festival on Saturday. The brothers, who are from Charleston, SC, didn’t let a 90-degree-plus afternoon interfere with their banter and cooking demo at the crowded Food for Thought tent.
After all, they’ve taken on Bobby Flay in a Throwdown match—and won, they proudly noted, with their Country Captain chicken recipe. But the Lees also have some other serious wins in their pocket.
Their first cookbook, The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, “won a bunch of awards.” Ted, pictured left, said modestly. He was referring to the prestigious 2007 James Beard Cookbook of the Year Award and the 2007 IACP American Cooking Award among others.
After that came the invites for appearances. “That was cool,” Ted said. “No one had heard of us.”
Now, the brothers are out and about promoting their second endeavor, Simple Fresh Southern. The title describes the kind of recipes you’ll find, like the delicious tomato and soybean salad with garlicky buttermilk dressing that the Lees made at the book festival. (The audience got to sample the results afterward.)
But the first thing you learn about the duo after they were introduced by the always ebullient Downtown Kevin Brown of Station North Arts Cafe is that Matt is two years older than Ted, and Ted is two inches taller. (They didn’t reveal their exact ages.) Ted is also the one wearing glasses.
During the half-hour presentation, we also learned that the brothers, who got in the kitchen at a young age because their parents worked—“We were our dad’s prep cook,” Ted said—think of themselves as home cooks. “You learn how to burn that first pot of rice,” Matt said about their early hands-on experience.
Those days are past. The Lees are currently working on another cookbook and taping segments for The Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats.
They don’t have an interest in doing shows for the Food Network, they said. “It’s not so much about food,” said Ted about the mostly reality-show programming these days. “We’d have a hard time sustaining the energy.”
This time next year, I’ll get to hang out with the Lees in their hometown. They’re the writers-in-residence at the Association of Food Journalists conference in Charleston. I can’t wait. I expect to learn a lot.