Southern food fans likely know Matt and his brother Ted already, and the outline of their story: siblings who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and were stranded in dead-end jobs in New York City after college. They founded a mail-order source for southern snacks (The Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue, www.boiledpeanuts.com), and became food writers when one of their customers, an editor at Travel + Leisure, asked them to road-trip South Carolina in search of great food. They have gone on to write more than 25 stories for T+L, in locales as far-flung as New Zealand and Ethiopia.
Matt and Ted were the first young food writers to bring a refreshingly scrappy, ravenous voice to the rarefied food coverage in the New York Times. Their first story for the Grey Lady, about being homesick southerners stranded in New York City and trying to find raw peanuts at the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx, brought to life (in March, 2000: http://tinyurl.com/njhw3t) a corner of New York that even most New Yorkers had never heard of. And their freewheeling food writing touched a nerve in magazines typically tucked-in and straight-laced: they wrote about a Tennessee corn-cob winemaker in Gourmet, for example, and for Food & Wine, a road-trip to hardscrabble Appalachian Kentucky, illustrated with their own photos (http://tinyurl.com/oqk3jv).
But it was their first cookbook that put them on the map as writers to be reckoned with: The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook swept the 2007 awards season, winning Amazon Editors' #1 Best Cookbook of 2006, two IACP awards (including the Julia Child Award) and two James Beard Awards, including Cookbook of the Year. They are the youngest authors ever to take Cookbook of the Year.
In the decade since they began writing, the landscape has changed substantially for southern food. Matt and Ted can speak to the state of southern food today with the perspective of knowing where it's been, as well as where it's going. With their new book, The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern (Clarkson Potter, Nov. 3, 2009), they're moving a deeper discussion of southern food into the mainstream.
Matt lives in Charleston and in upstate New York with wife Gia and baby TK (due mid-Sept. '09)
More info and tour dates can be found at the bros' author web site, www.mattleeandtedlee.com