After 14 years as the beloved chef of Ucross, the renowned artist residency program in Wyoming, Cindy Brooks has announced her retirement, effective this summer.
A California native, Brooks owned her own restaurant in Bozeman, Montana, before she brought her culinary prowess to Ucross in 2009.
“Cindy feeds and nourishes our artists in residence, so they are free to focus on their projects, unburdened and uninterrupted. Every weeknight, she cooks and presents an artful, multi-course dinner for 10 — after she hand-delivers lunch to their studio doors and bakes dozens of her famous cookies,” said Ucross President William Belcher. “Cindy is an artist in the kitchen. The nourishment she provides is entwined with the artistic, emotional and physical nourishment of the residency experience.”
Ucross alumni often cite the significance of the food and dining experience on their creative process. Their affection for Brooks continues years after their residencies.
Brooks became nationally known for her work after the 2022 publication of “The Ucross Cookbook: Cooking for Artists on a Wyoming Ranch.” The initial funding for the project — nearly $45,000 — was raised primarily through individual donations of past artists in residence across nation. Additional funding was provided by the Raymond Plank Philanthropy Fund.
Brooks wrote the book with the award-winning novelist, memoirist and cookbook author Cree LeFavour of New York, New York, who had enjoyed Brooks’s cooking as an artist in residence only a few years earlier. A blend of recipes, stories, photography and creative passages by alumni, the hardcover book showcases Brooks’s impact on the artists’ experience at Ucross. The release was timed with launch events in New York and Los Angeles attended by hundreds of artist-alumni.
“Perhaps the greatest nurturing I received [during my residency] was the delicious food, prepared with such love by master chef Cindy Brooks and paired with the camaraderie of my fellow residents at dinner each night,” wrote Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning composer and playwright Michael R. Jackson of New York, New York, after his first residency at Ucross. “The consistent material and spiritual sustenance of both fortified me so I could return to the land of the living and, eventually, to a hit-making professional debut with my musical, ‘A Strange Loop.’”
After she retires, Brooks plans to move to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and looks forward to exploring galleries, restaurants and hiking trails, as well as reviving her love of painting and drawing. An avid traveler, she has a fall trip to Spain and Tunisia planned.
However, Brooks will miss her time at Ucross. She feels deeply connected to the land. Her house is on the Ucross Ranch, overlooking the rolling plains, and she has loved walking with her dog through the changing seasons.
“Cooking for the artists has brought me so much joy,” Brooks said. “It’s been so rewarding — and also, so much fun. In what other job are you going to meet such a cross-section of wonderful, interesting artists?”
A search for Brooks’s successor is underway.
“We’re grateful for all Cindy has done and will be greatly saddened to lose her, but we’re excited for her next chapter,” Belcher said. “Now, we’re seeking an experienced chef to make the position their own.”
Applications will be accepted through May 1, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. MT. Ucross aims to fill the position by August 1, 2023. Application information may be found here.
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